(DVB) Newspaper editors in Burma have complained that they are being blocked from publishing election opinions given by ‘third force’ parties.
The rule was issued by the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, which exercises the Burmese government’s draconian restrictions on media freedom.
One editor told DVB on condition of anonymity that it may be because ‘third force’ groups, those who are neither pro-government or opposition, are yet to register their parties for the elections, rumoured to be in October this year.
“We cannot publish material containing opinions on the elections laws,” the editor said. He added that the Yangon [Rangoon] Times newspaper was barred from publishing an interview with Thu Wei, head of the third force Democratic Party.
Thu Wei said that he was “being interviewed every day” but that these were not being published. He added that there is “less freedom and time to campaign” than compared to the 1990 elections.
Newspapers were also prohibited from reporting about the reopening of around 300 opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party offices last week.
Another editor said however that some journals close to information minister Kyaw San were allowed to publish material in favour of the election laws.
“[Publications] can report material that falls within the guidelines provided by the government but no more than that. Basically, we are not yet allowed to write at our will,” he said.
Burma’s media laws are amongst the strictest in the world; a recent Press Freedom Index released by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Burma 171 out of 175 countries.
Journalists who publish material deemed to be critical of the ruling junta risk lengthy prison terms. Observers have warned that the junta will clamp down on media in the run-up to the elections.