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State censors suspend another journal

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - 18 August 2010 - The "Modern Times" journal this week became the fourth publication in six weeks to be suspended by Burmese state censors, according to a journal editor.

The suspension followed the change of a title of an article about weather conditions on the cover of the journal's fifth issue from the headline earlier approved by the junta's censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.

"The new title read 'Will September return?' and the journal failed to re-submit it, along with the new design of the cover, which is why it was suspended," the editor said.

"No one knows for how many weeks the journal will be suspended . . . the director of the censorship board went to Naypyidaw to attend a meeting. Only after he comes back to Rangoon can he decide on the length of the suspension period," he said.

Mizzima was unable to reach "Modern Times" for comment.

The first issue of the journal, which contains general topics, was published in mid-July by Mhway Thida Thein, the wife of Burma Overseas Seafarers Association Secretary Soe Min Aung. Its office is located in Botahtaung Township in Rangoon. The editor-in-chief is Aung Ye Maung Maung and the owner of the publishing license is Myat Soe (Hlaing).

"The censorship board seemed scared that the new title 'Will September return?', might cause the public to remember the 'Saffron Revolution', which happened in September 2007," a reporter from a weekly journal said. He was referring to the nationwide uprising sparked by popular opposition to fuel price increases three years ago. The rallies, led by Buddhist monks, began in August 2007 but turned into larger public protests in September.

Moreover, rumours circulated that the journal was suspended to avoid unwarranted public concern over meteorological conditions later this year. A government weatherman had predicted that the La Niña phenomenon - of wetter, cooler conditions - would start taking effect in September and reach a peak in November.

An editor said the suspensions were part of a trend of even tighter oversight by the notorious state censors, often referred to in local publishing circles as the "Press Kempeitai", after the Japanese Imperial Army's brutal military police unit in Burma during the Second World War.

"The relationship between journalists and the censorship board has worsened. In the past, if a journal made mistakes, it would merely receive a warning. But now, if a journal commits an error, it could be suspended," the editor said.

In May, "The Voice" journal was temporarily suspended because it reported that a "Seven Days News" journal reporter had filed an assault case against actress Htet Htet Moe Oo, after she hit the reporter in response to questions about her private life.

Similarly, early last month, the "Envoy News" and "Popular" journals were suspended for a week each because they featured actresses in cover photos deemed "incompatible with Burmese culture". Late last month, state censors suspended "The Voice" for two weeks over an article on constitutional issues by Aung Htut, entitled "Concept and Process".
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