YANGON Aug 6 Myanmar's government has agreed to
lift suspensions on two weekly journals within two weeks, their
editors said on Monday, just days after rare protests by
journalists in two cities to demand more press freedom.
Editors of the Burmese-language Voice Weekly and The Envoy
told Reuters that Myanmar's censorship board had informed them
they could resume publishing by Aug. 18, without giving a reason
for why the suspensions would be lifted.
Publication of the journals was halted indefinitely late
last month, promoting an outcry among journalists who are
enjoying freedom to publish not seen under the five decades of
authoritarian military rule that ended in March last year.
The quasi-civilian government has loosened its grip on the
press as part of a surprise reform drive. But some press
censorship still remains and journalists pushing the boundaries
of the restrictions have complained that suspensions are
tantamount to intimidation.
Nearly 100 journalists rallied against the suspension in
Yangon on Saturday and about 60 protested in the second-biggest
city, Mandalay a day later, most wearing black T shirts saying
"stop killing the press".
"The reason for lifting the suspension, I think, would be
because of the rallies by the journalists," said an editor of
another journal, who asked not to be named.
Monday's edition of the Messenger journal blacked-out its
entire front page and cited a line from the constitution that
guarantees freedom of expression.
The Nation journal went a step further, uploading on its
Facebook page what it said was a censored copy of its front page
story of the protest, which was covered with crosses in red ink.
It was not known exactly why the two publications were
suspended. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, as the
censors are called, said they had "violated rules and
regulations", without elaborating.
The Voice is also facing a lawsuit, lodged by Myanmar's
Ministry of Mines, after it published a report alleging graft by
ministries under the previous government.
Myanmar's government has insisted it will scrap censorship
as soon as a press law is promulgated, but journalists are
concerned some restrictions will remain and recommendations for
the legislation might be ignored.
The government's mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar,
carried an editorial in its Sunday edition, apparently in
response to the protests, calling for patience and reiterating
that censorship would soon be abolished.
It said the country was "not still accustomed to the freedom
we have not enjoyed before" and to "rush could ruin results."
(Reporting by Thu Rein Hlaing; Editing by Martin Petty and Ed
Lane; Editing by Ed Lane)