Myanmar to get 16 new dailies

Myanmar has given permission to 16 media groups to start publishing daily newspapers next month, ending five decades of state monopoly over daily news, media reports said Tuesday.

The government's Central Supervisory Committee for Printers and Publishers on Monday gave eight new media groups permission to publish dailies as of April 1, the state-owned Mirror newspaper reported, bringing the total of new licences to 16.

The Myanmar-language Mirror is one of three state-run newspapers that have monopolised daily news since the 1960s, when all publication were nationalized as part of the then government's move to socialism. The New Light of Myanmar is an English-language version of the Mirror.

On March 1, publishing licences were granted to eight other media groups, so now altogether 16 new dailies are in the offing on April 1, when the current government marks its second anniversary in power.

Myanmar's media was ranked among the world's least free when the country was under military rule from 1962 to 2010.

Numerous reforms have been implemented since President Thein Sein came to power in 2011, including a loosening of controls over the domestic press and the ending of pre-publication censorship this year.

The government had planned to pass a new law regulating the media earlier this month, but the legislation was postponed due to strong criticism from domestic and international press freedom groups and some members of parliament.

The bill proposed to ban reporting on topics such as criticism of the military-drafted 2008 constitution, and would have prohibited publication of any news that could "disturb the rule of law," "incite unrest," or "violate the constitution and other existing laws."

A six-month jail term would have been imposed on owners of publications that fail to register with the government.

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Writer: dpa
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