25 May 2010
The Burmese junta’s state censor has temporarily suspended the publishing licenses of two journals that reported the filing of an assault case against actress Htet Htet Moe Oo by a reporter from the “Seven Days” journal.
The two-time Burma Film Academy award-winning actress was accused of slapping and attempting to strangle Aye Thu San after the reporter asked her about her private life. The first hearing was held at Yankin Townhsip court in Rangoon on 25 May 2010, at which the complainant and one eyewitness testified. The next hearing was set for 27 May.
The Ministry of Information’s Press Registration and Scrutiny Division (Censor) office at Bahan Township in Rangoon posted a notice that the publishing licenses of “The Voice” and “The First Music” had been suspended temporarily starting 22 May, a journalist said.
“The Voice” weekly journal’s issue released on 22 May reported that “Seven Days” journal reporter Aye Thu San had filed assault charges against Htet Htet Moe Oo and also printed a transcript of the interview during which the assault was alleged to have occurred.
Similarly, “First Music” journal reported the filing of the lawsuit along with a photo of the crying reporter.
The duration of the suspension was as yet unclear but a reporter from “The Voice” who requested anonymity told Mizzima it would last one week.
An officer from the censor’s office in a phone interview told Mizzima: “It’s not because of the news concerning Htet Htet Moe Oo as they [the journals] have time and again ignored our warnings on censored news by publishing them [the cut items] and now it [the ban] coincided with this news [about the alleged assault].”
All Burmese publications are required by the State Peace and Development Council’s (Burma’s ruling junta) laws to submit and receive approval from the censor’s office for their front and back pages on A3 paper before the publications go to print. Censorship and deleting of news articles are arbitrary and has led to headaches, disappointment and often jail terms for many journalists.
Members of the Burmese press often ridicule the censor’s office, speaking of it as the “Press Kempeitai”, after the notorious Japanese military intelligence, units of which were active in Burma during the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.
“We issued warnings when we publish forbidden photos and news reports or photos and illustrations on the front page that we have been told to print inside,” an editor said. “They usually suspend our publishing license for one to two weeks if such warnings have accumulated two or three times”.
If a person who is the subject of such items presents a protest letter on a news report to the censor’s office, the board sometimes bans the journal that published it. Htet Htet Moe Oo, however, denied filing such a complaint.
Ye Naing Moe, a journalist based in Rangoon, said publication of these reports should be allowed by the censor’s office as a matter of public interest.
“The public should know the case of a reporter being assaulted in public while she was doing her job,” he said. “This is not just a case of a conflict between two people; it’s a case concerning the role of a reporter in society.”
Mizzima News ( http://www.mizzima.com/ ) is a news organization headquartered in New Delhi, India, run by exiled Burmese journalists. A SEAPA partner, it aims to promote awareness about the situation in Burma and promote democracy and freedom of expression in the country.