The government of Myanmar said on Monday that it would no longer censor private publications, a move that journalists described as a major step toward media freedom in a country where military governments have tried for decades to control the flow of information.
The announcement was made to editors on Monday and posted on a government Web site. “All publications in Myanmar are exempt from the scrutiny of Press Scrutiny and Registration Department,” the government said in a terse statement.
Private publications in Myanmar have been thriving since President Thein Sein began taking steps last year to open up the country’s economy and move the country toward democracy.
“This is a very significant step — a big change,” U Ko Ko, the owner of The Yangon Times said by telephone. “It is in line with a democratic society. We have been working with censorship for almost five decades.”
U Tint Swe, a top official in the Press Registration and Scrutiny Department, told journalists that government censorship had been in place for 48 years and 14 days, according to one participant in the meeting.
The news media have been one of the most assertive sectors of Myanmar society since democratic reforms began last year. Journalists have held protests against government interference in their work, and this month five senior journalists refused to participate in a government-sanctioned press council.