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Publications exempt from prior censorship still receive warnings from Information Ministry

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - 28 June 2011 - The Burmese censorship board has issued warnings to some newspapers and magazines that are free to publish without prior censorship, according to journalists in Rangoon.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division of the Information Ministry warned some newspapers and magazines, including a medical journal, that some articles were culturally inappropriate.

Since 10 June 2011, at least 10 publications have been warned, say the journalists.

Burmese censorship rules are now divided into two categories of newspapers and magazines: Group 1 includes 178 publications focusing on sports, health, arts, children's literature, and technology, which don't need to pass articles through censors prior to publication, but must submit copies after publication; Group 2 includes 180 publications focusing on news, crime, education, economics and religion, which must pass articles through censors prior to publication.

In accordance with a new regulation imposed by the Information Ministry, if a publication violates the rules three times, it must deposit 5 million kyat (approx. US$780,000) with the censorship board; if the publication violates the rules a fourth time, the money will be seized by the government.

One editor noted that despite the new censorship policy, warnings to publications means there is still censorship in Burma.

"Nothing has changed," he said. "The only difference is that earlier they scrutinized the manuscripts and now they scrutinize the publications. That means they still have censorship. Forcing the editors to sign pledges for a bond or a fine, that's not appropriate."

Most of the editors at weekly journals said that they were required to publish the news about fighting between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State using only the government's viewpoint.

"We can quote the state-run newspapers and Shwe Mann's words, but we cannot give the views of local residents in Kachin State and the KIO [Kachin Independence Organization] spokesman," a prominent editor told Mizzima.

Another editor said, "Mostly, news about the fighting in Kachin State is not allowed. These days, we have to publish the news based on what the state-run newspapers say."

Meanwhile, some news journals did succeed in publishing information about the consequences of the fighting, including the information that the border trade had declined.

"We can write about the situation of the refugees. We can publish news that trade has fallen. And we can quote the news about fighting that was published in the state-run newspaper," said another newspaper editor.

Many local journals quoted the news published on 18 June in state-run newspapers saying the Burmese army had counterattacked the KIA in order to protect the people and the nation's hydropower projects in the area.

From 9 to 25 June, there were repeated clashes between government troops and the KIA. The state media has reported accounts of clashes only once.

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