Private dailies re-emerge in Myanmar

Private dailies re-emerge in Myanmar


People buy and sell newspapers in central Yangon a few days after four private dailies hit the newsstands in Myanmar for the first time in almost 50 years.

The change came after the country’s new, quasi-civilian government embarked on media reforms last year. But many emerging dailies are facing difficulties and failed to publish, hamstrung by poor financing, old equipment and a lack of reporters.

. Yangon, Myanmar. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A newspaper vendor sits under pictures of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her father, the country's independence hero General Aung San, as she sells her wares in central Yangon in November 2011.

The picture was taken several months after the government of President Thein Sein took over from a long-ruling military junta in March 2011, beginning a process of rapid economic and political reforms.

Two years later, following a relaxation in August 2012 of previous draconian censorship, sixteen dailies have been granted licenses by the authorities. But only four were published in time for April 1, as competitors were unwilling, or unable, to get their dailies into the hands of the public quite as quickly.

. YANGON, Myanmar. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

A journalist holds up a sample copy of The Voice Daily, which was distributed on April 1 along with three other private dailies: Golden Fresh Land, The Standard Time Daily and Union Daily.

The government-affiliated Union Daily used financial clout to beat out competitors like D-Wave, the paper of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), for which publication preparations are still underway.

. YANGON, Myanmar. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Employees work to produce The Voice Daily newspaper using a press machine in Yangon.

Other media organisations wanting to likewise expand into dailies faced stumbling blocks, including distribution issues, poor infrastructure, outmoded printing equipment and staffing problems.

. Naypyitaw, Myanmar. REUTERS/Minzayar

Freshly printed copies of the New Light of Myanmar, a former state propaganda newspaper and the only English-language daily in the country, are wedged together ready for distribution at the newspaper's office.

The Ministry of Information has invited local and foreign partners to invest in a joint venture to publish the paper.

Other media groups are waiting for clarity on how Myanmar will treat publications benefitting from foreign investment.

. YANGON, Myanmar. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

A woman reads a paper at a market in Myanmar, which the Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks 151st out of 179 countries in its Press Freedom Index, up 18 places compared to the previous year.

RSF has warned that a media bill, presented to parliament in March, could threaten the "fragile" progress Myanmar has made since 2011.

It criticised provisions that could result in newspapers being declared illegal for publishing material liable to threaten national reconciliation, denigrate religions or disturb the rule of law.