Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Burma stifles news of VP’s resignation

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 12:52 Mizzima News

Burmese authorities are clamping down news about the resignation offer by hardline vice president Tin Aung Myint Oo, according to media reports, reflecting the fragile political situation in the country even as it pushes ahead with initial reforms.

The former top general and military advisor to then junta leader Than Shwe has submitted his letter of resignation on grounds of poor health, an official in the country’s capital Naypyidaw told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Vice President Tin Aung Myint Oo Photo: Mizzima

President Thein Sein is currently considering his resignation and Parliament will decide on the issue when it reopens in July, the official said.

Tin Aung Myint Oo sent in his resignation in the first week of May after returning from medical treatment in Singapore, Burmese media reported.

One of Burma’s two vice presidents, he is believed to be leading a hardline faction in Thein Sein’s military-backed government that replaced Than Shwe’s regime a year ago and enacted a series of democratic reforms.

Story Censored

No official announcements have been made about the resignation and Burma’s censorship office has put a lid on the story, preventing local media from discussing it.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, which requires media outlets to submit articles for approval before publication, has not allowed local media to report on the resignation and warned journals that they will face disciplinary action if they do so.

The Myanmar Post, a weekly news journal that published information about Tin Aung Myint Oo in its Monday edition, has been warned by the censorship office that it faces legal action for publishing the information without prior approval.

Another news journal, Venus, said it planned to report on the vice president’s resignation in this week’s edition, but the censorship office would not allow it.

“We have quoted news on Tin Aung Myint Oo resigning due to his health in our publication for this week’s journal, but it will not be approved,” Venus Editor Thar Lun Zaung Htet told RFA in an interview Tuesday.

He said that the journal had received calls from Burma’s censorship chief, Tint Swe, and other censorship officials ordering them not to discuss the issue.

“Last night while we were doing the final update, Major Tint Swe and Win Maung called and told us that we absolutely can't publish that news, and they will take action if we do so,” he said.

He added that Venus had received disciplinary warnings from the censorship office before, a common issue for journals in Burma.

“We were warned severely and told our journal will be banned for two weeks, but later, after negotiations with the publisher, we were allowed to continue,” he said.

Venus had been disciplined in recent months, including for running a story on the 2003 Depayin Massacre of opposition activists, for running an editorial asserting that the military should not be involved in government, and for discussing other controversial topics.

But journals like Venus continue to push the limits with the censorship curbs, he said.

“Readers are become politically active and knowledgeable, and so they want to know more about politics. There is a demand for that,” he said.

Officials have said that censorship would be abolished when a new media law is introduced this year as part of government reforms.

Tint Swe said recently that the new media law being framed will be comprehensive and completed this year with provisions allowing for independent newspapers and a self-governing press council.

Burma is ranked 169 out of 179 countries in terms of press freedom, according to an index published in January by international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

Reported by Kyaw Kyaw Aung for RFA’s Burmese service. Translated by Khin May Zaw and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink. Copyright © 1998-2011 Radio Free Asia. Used with permission.

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