Attacks on the Press
Journalists reporting in Burma continued to face threats and obstacles despite widespread hope for a freer media environment with the transition from military to quasi-civilian rule. While existing restrictive laws perpetuated self-censorship, a new printing and publishing bill aimed to re-impose broad censorship guidelines and grant a newly created registrar sweeping powers to issue and revoke publishing licenses. Journalist groups protested the bill, saying its measures would undercut the press freedom guarantees enshrined in a separate media law being drafted with input from journalists. Both bills were still pending parliamentary approval in late year. In a significant shift marking the end of pre-publication censorship, authorities issued licenses to private newspapers allowing them to publish on a daily basis. Several journalists were threatened or assaulted while covering deadly Buddhist mob attacks on Muslim communities in March. A journalist was sentenced in December to three months in prison for alleged trespassing and defamation while covering a news story. Exile media groups known for their editorial independence faced uncertain futures because of donor funding cuts and rising competition from better-financed, state-linked publications.