Freedom of press in Myanmar

Many citizens of Myanmar are delighted with the lifting of a law that was put in place almost 50 years ago. The owners of print publications (such as newspapers and magazines) in the country will no longer have to go through government approval before printing their articles.  However, they can still be punished if what they have written is considered to be harmful to the peace of the country.

Myanmar, known as Burma until 1989, got its independence from the United Kingdom in 1948. After its independence, journalists had the freedom to write what they wanted. However, things changed. In 1962, a military government took over Myanmar. Two years later,  a law was placed by the government where people could not write and print publications without approval from the government. Any information that put the government in a bad light was not allowed to be printed. The press could not express support for other political parties that wanted to stand against the government. Many journalists who wrote against the government were thrown in jail.

In the last couple of years, Myanmar has been going through changes and is moving towards becoming a more democratic country. Elections were held in 2010, and a new government came into power.  Members of other political parties have been allowed to take part in recent parliamentary elections. Many political prisoners have been freed.  In 2010, the country also changed  its national anthem,  its flag, and even its official name from “Union of Myanmar” to “Republic of the Union of Myanmar”.

The capital of Myanmar is Naypyidaw and the largest city is Yangon. The country’s president is Thein Sein (image). The official language of the country is Burmese and its currency is the kyat.

Every year, Reporters Without Borders, an international organization that supports freedom of the press, publishes a list called the “Press Freedom Index” that ranks countries according to how much freedom the journalists in the country have. The ranking of countries based on last year’s information placed Myanmar at number 169 out of 179 countries (where the number one country allows the most freedom to its country’s press).  You can view the list here.


Image Credits: Time3000 and GFDL for the Censorship image, Thai Government for Sein’s image