The government’s ominous clarifying statement on the policy clearly indicates that it has no intention of allowing any sort of truly free press in Myanmar:
“If all publishers cooperate with us by really believing in us, they will get complete freedom for writing and publishing soon,” Tint Swe, deputy director general of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), told Wednesday’s meeting.
But the sports editor said a new media oversight committee, which will work alongside the PSRD censors, had added uncertainty for publishers.
Reporters Without Borders, which ranked Myanmar 174th out of 178 countries in its 2010 press freedom index, has said the country’s pre-publication censorship of more than 150 privately-owned newspapers and magazines was “virtually unique in the world.”
Meanwhile, the Burmese government, along with their defenders in the PRC, will surely wave around this latest “reform” as evidence that things are changing in Myanmar, even while continuing to prevent their people from hearing anything mildly critical of the government. The government is likewise consolidating and tightening its control over Internet usage in the country, even requiring Burmese citizens to report on each others’ Internet usage:
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders released a report shortly after last year’s elections alleging that what the government had presented publicly as an Internet “upgrade” would in fact improve its on-line surveillance capabilities. “The new system requires Internet requests to go through even more ISP [Internet service provider] servers and therefore users are subjected to more screening and controls,” the report said…
Underground journalists who have kept the world informed about pivotal events that the regime has tried to censor will in future struggle to feed footage and information to foreign news outlets, as they did so effectively during the August-September 2007 uprising and crackdown.
The government’s improved online surveillance capabilities are already on display: in April a former army captain was arrested for possessing an e-mail with the words “national reconciliation” in its title. He faces up to 20 years in prison under the draconian Electronics Act and may well carry the distinction of being the newly elected government’s first political prisoner.
These are not the actions of a government that has the slightest intention of encouraging or even allowing true democratic reform.
The forecast for Myanmar looks bleak on almost all fronts. Like many countries in Southeast Asia, it remains pressed between the totalitarian PRC on one side and totalitarian-minded Islamists on the other. Sadly, much of the region looks to remain hostile to the interests of Americans, Christians, and the basic freedoms of its own citizens.
Leon Wolf is a Nashville attorney, and contributing editor to RedState.com, as well as numerous other online publications. He is a veteran of several Republican political campaigns.
Pages: 1 2