- Younger generations of Americans are vaguely aware that strange rectangular things called books and newspapers exist, but long words and small print are so hard to understand.
Four of 16 groups in Burma which won licenses to publish dailies under the reformist government launched their maiden editions Monday—the first time privately run daily newspapers hit the streets in nearly 50 years.
Copies of the four newspapers—The Voice, The Golden Fresh Land, The Union Daily and The Standard Time—quickly sold out due to high demand, publishers said.
The Union is run by Burma’s ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), The Standard Time by a construction company called “Three Friends,” and The Golden Fresh Land by a publishing house called Golden Land. The Voice and The Union had formerly existed as private weekly newspapers reports Radio Free Asia.
Two other newspapers—7 Days and The Daily Eleven—have announced launch dates of April 16 and May 3, respectively.
The remaining groups that were given licenses by the government, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy’s D-Wave, have announced delays due to distribution issues and other difficulties.
|Customers buy daily newspapers from a roadside shop |
April 1, 2013, in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP)
The permission to run dailies was part of media reforms introduced by President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, which took power in 2011 after decades of military rule in Burma.
The former junta had seized control of Burma’s private dailies in 1964, enforcing a monopoly on daily news by state-owned newspapers.
Kyaw Min Swe, editor in chief of The Voice, told RFA’s Burmese Service that the first day of publication had been met with an enthusiastic welcome by readership.
“Papers can be sold until 11:00 a.m., but we had already sold out at around 8:00 a.m. So, it was pretty successful,” he said.
“We sell papers for 130 kyat (U.S. $0.16). People who want to learn about the news will read daily papers. The influence of weekly journals that cover the news will clearly be weakened going forward.”
"We've been waiting half a century for this day," said Khin Maung Lay, chief editor of the new daily Golden Fresh Land, whose initial print run of 80,000 copies had sold out by late morning. "It shows how much people long for private daily newspapers. This morning, I was in tears seeing this."
Once home to a vibrant print culture – where daily papers in Burmese, English, Chinese and Indian languages flourished – Burma closed all private daily print production in 1964 under a military junta headed by General Ne Win. For much of the next five decades the country became better known for spying on, censoring, jailing, torturing and seizing equipment of journalists deemed against the state.
"It won't be easy for all the newspapers to survive. As a reader, I can't afford to buy every newspaper, every day," a taxi driver, Tun Win, 52, told AP. "[But] now we can get information every day, rather than once a week. It's the best way to get up-to-date news for those who don't have access to the internet."
Private newspapers return to Myanmar
People in Myanmar now have access to private daily newspapers for the first time in almost 50 years.
Private dailies in the former British colony, also known as Burma, were forced to shut down following a military coup in 1964.
Their re-emergence now is seen as another major step in the country's transformation from authoritarian rule to democracy.
Newspapers are alive in Burma
While back in the semi-literate United States, newspapers are shrinking with a public more interested in celebrity breast implants and new episodes of Duck Dynasty.