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Suu Kyi withdraws article slated for publication following harassment from censorship board

(Mizzima News/IFEX) - August 30, 2011 - Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's first effort to publish an article in a Burmese journal has been censored, and she has withdrawn it from publication. The article was about her personal pilgrimage to Bagan, the ancient temple complex in central Burma.

The Burmese censorship board is typically referred to as the "Press Kempeitai" by the literary community, which refers to the Japanese army's brutal military police wing that was part of the occupation forces in Burma during World War II.

Suu Kyi gave the Rangoon-based "People's Era" journal the article about her trip to Bagan earlier this year. The censorship board told the journal to remove several paragraphs of the article.

When the journal informed Suu Kyi that her article could not be published unless those paragraphs were removed, she withdrew the article, the journal's editor, Maung Wun Tha, told Mizzima.

"As usual, the censorship board told us to remove certain paragraphs. When they tell us to remove something in articles written by us, we remove them," Maung Wun Tha said.

Maung Wun Tha did not disclose the contents of the paragraphs to be cut from Suu Kyi's article.

Pe Myint, the chief editor of "People's Era", said that the journal would appeal the decision and try to publish the entire article by Suu Kyi.

"We will talk with the board and resubmit the article again. If the circumstances improve, the article will be allowed," Pe Myint told Mizzima. The article is one page in length, he said.

Suu Kyi's article about her trip to Bagan has already been published in English by "The Mainichi Daily News" in Japan.

An official at the censorship board said that Suu Kyi's article was in a "postponed status," and there was a possibility that it would be published at an opportune time in the future.

"For instance, there are six paragraphs in an article. If four out of the six paragraphs conflict with policy, we have to remove them. So, just two paragraphs are not enough to be published and the whole story cannot be used. Now, the article is in a 'postponed status'. The article has not been banned permanently. There is a possibility that it will be published. Now, we are reading it again and scrutinizing it," the official said.

President Thein Sein said in his opening speech to Parliament early this year that the government would respect the role of the media, traditionally the fourth pillar of a democracy, and he urged publications to present information that people needed to know. He said that constructive suggestions offered by the media should be respected, and suggestions and criticism of the government by the media would be welcomed as a step in establishing freedom of the press.

Moreover, Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann said at the opening session of the second regular session of Parliament, which started on August 22, that media outlets would be permitted to compile news about parliamentary sessions. Despite his statement, the censorship board has removed certain criticisms of government policies, according to local journalists who cover parliamentary sessions.

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