By David Stout
The government has temporarily suspended Snapshot news journal’s operations for publishing a photograph on 9 June of the dead body of the woman whose rape and murder instigated sectarian violence in Arakan state last week.
The periodical’s publisher Myat Khine was notified of the government’s decision in a letter sent by the director of the state’s Printing and Publishing Enterprise Myo Myint Maung.
In the letter sent on Tuesday, Myo Myint Maung cites Snapshot’s printing of a picture Thida Htwe’s corpse without prior approval from government regulators.
The rape and murder of Thida Htwe in Ramee township in Arakan state last May lead to an increase in tensions between the area’s Muslim and Buddhist communities that boiled over into rioting this weekend.
“Publishing of such a material is not only against media ethnics, but also very inappropriate for the time as unrest is breaking out,” wrote Myo Myint Maung in the letter.
The decision came on the heels of the announcement from Rangoon Division’s Chief Minister Myit Swe earlier this week.
During a meeting at the divisional government’s office with members of the fourth estate on 10 June, Myit Swe warned media outlets that they would be held accountable if they violated the Ministry of Information’s publishing guidelines when covering the riots in Arakan state, reported The Voice Weekly.
Myit Swe cited article 505-(b) of the Penal Code and the article five-(j) of the Emergency Provisions Act during the meeting. Both articles contain broad language that prohibits actions that would destabilise state security or would encourage the public to act in an immoral fashion.
The divisional chief said those who violate the government’s press laws are liable to be fined or imprisoned.
The Ministry of Information’s Deputy Director Tint Swe said media outlets are required to submit their reports regarding the Arakan riots to the Press Scrutiny and Registration division.
In the past year, Burma’s media environment has enjoyed a relaxation of several of the former junta’s draconian censorship laws. Journals have published controversial interviews and taken on government leaders. However, without a new media law, editors and journalists are still vulnerable to harassment and prosecution under broad legal statutes.
In April, the Myanmar Post Global was punished and prevented from printing its supplementary pages for two weeks after the publication failed to submit articles to censors before they were printed.
Burma’s legal system is still extremely vague and press freedom is curtailed through pre-submitting copy, in accordance with the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law and the 12 press scrutiny policies.