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Ethnic groups test Burma’s new media freedoms

A group of ethnic journalists inside Burma is to launch a weekly journal called “The Union” in the last week of November which will mainly focus on cultural, literacy and issues that affect the daily lives of ethnic nationalities.

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Following the government’s claims that it is serious about creating media freedom environment, ethnic based media outlets are starting to emerge in Burma. A working group for The Union applied for the publication license and have already formed their editorial team, started the training of their reporters and planning for the publication date to launch the first 32 page journal.

This is in spite of the group not yet been given permission by the government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.

The journal’s chief editor, Ko Phyo Wai Lin, said that The Union is aiming to inform readers in the whole of Burma about what happens in ethnic areas, including problems ethnic people face.

“We will have our field reporters in every States, at least two or three each to start with. We will also field them in the major cities.”

An ethnic Mon senior journalist based inside Burma, Maung Wong Tha said that the publication will be good to promote and report about cultural, literacy and lives of ethnic nationalities.

Maung Wong Tha spoke to Karen News of the Journal’s plans.

“It’s good news. We should have had this kind of media outlet for a long time. Ethic leaders are also trying to promote and develop our literacy and culture as much as they can. We used to have a cultural journal before, but it disappeared. It is good to have an ethnic-focused journal.”

Maung Wong Tha said saying that he hopes the journal contents would lead to more knowledge, more trust and understanding among different ethnic groups in Burma.

Currently, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division ban the publication of news of fighting and armed conflict in ethnic areas.

Ma Ei Mon Kyaw, who is the political editor of “The Union” was reported as saying that there won’t be any bias on publishing the news…but she expected covering in-depth news about ethnic minorities would pose a challenge for The Union’s editorial team.

According to media reports inside Burma, the main initiators of the publication are from the ethnic Chin and Shan groups in association with ethnic political parties.

U Zin Lin, vice chairman of the Burma Media Association said if the ethnic groups came up with this on their own; it is good because they can report news from ethnic areas. However, if the idea has come from government ministers, it won’t work.

“It won’t be a genuine ethnic journal if ethnic groups are not working on the journal or fail to report the real situation in ethnic areas. They should be able to report about news of civilian fleeing from fighting, economic related news, for example, we have a Mon minister who took bribe in exporting rice, and they should be able to report this kind of news. After all, people should know everything that is going on in the country. Journalists have their ethnics and responsibilities, if they were free to write, they would report what the people of Burma should know.”

 

The Union will be competing in the crowded lifestyle, sport and entertainment news magazine market under the existing censorship. Karen News asked for a comment from Ko Min Nyein Chan, an editor of the popular “Sabae Phyu and Nwe Ni” magazine based in Burma but he said.

“Let me give comment after the journal comes out.”

U Tint Shwe, deputy director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division said in a statement on October 8 that since the country is moving forward to democratic change, the censorship department should not exist anymore.