GENERALS ALONE ENJOY PRESS FREEDOM
Independent journalists have been continuing to exercise their profession in Burma, despite working in conditions that the "Irrawaddy" magazine (Vol.8, No.9, September 2000) calls "some of the severest censorship that the world's press has ever seen." In the editorial "Free Burma, Free Media", the author reviews Burma's press freedom record over the decades, noting that "in the 1950s, Burma was one of the most promising countries in Southeast Asia in terms of press freedom and journalistic professionalism." However, since the first military coup in 1962, press freedom has steadily declined and now only really exists for the military. The generals are "free to use the media to slam the democratic opposition... to promote their xenophobic worldview and to drill it into the minds of the Burmese people that only the military can act as the nations savior," says the author.
That said, there are increasing numbers of Burmese youth who want to learn about journalism and the country's journalistic leaders are quietly "reminding them that Burma has not always been such a hostile place for those who enquire after the truth and seek to keep the public informed." The journalists' enthusiasm, however, is met with strict reporting bans, overt censorship and a "harsh reality of repression." Nonetheless, the author notes that Burmese journalists must strive to achieve reliable and independent reporting not only to entrench press freedom in the country, but also to contribute to the overall struggle to establish a "genuine democracy." "For the good of the country, the generals must end their obstruction of the media," writes the author.