Myanmar seeking to manage media

Myanmar seeking to manage media
With the government loosening its grip on the media in Myanmar, 31 licences for private newspapers have been issued so far.

MYANMAR - Not too long ago in the office of Myanmar's media censor, a young military officer crumpled up a newspaper article by a noted Myanmar writer and, dropping it on to the floor, used a golf putter to send it across the room.

The putter is now in the closet and the censorship office no more.

After four decades of military rule, the civilian government has freed the Internet, and handed out licences for private newspapers. So far, 31 licences have been issued and 12 privately run dailies appear regularly, in addition to four state-owned newspapers.

But private media has not exercised the responsibility that comes with freedom, critics say, especially on the hot-button issues of religion and ethnic relations.

Some think the anti-Muslim sentiment that has seized parts of this mostly Buddhist nation would not have been so inflamed had private media outlets applied higher standards and separated comment from reportage.

Sectarian violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state last year killed more than 100 people, most of them minority Muslim Rohingya, and displaced 140,000 others.

This year, violence across central and northern Myanmar has left over 50 dead and displaced thousands.

The anti-Muslim wave is driven by right-wing nationalist Buddhist groups such as the 969 Movement led by Mandalay-based monk U Wirathu, who freely courts the media.

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