Burma is ruled by a military junta which employs strict censorship. While this means that the official newspaper is so slanted that even the people at The Onion couldn’t make up most of it (more on this later), it also means that foreign newspapers are officially banned. So there are black market newspaper vendors that stand on street corners (semi) covertly hawking foreign newspapers. When we stopped to look at their selection they had a copy of a Singapore newspaper which was a week old. When we wondered if he had something more recent, the vendor proudly offered us a newspaper that was “very new”. It was yesterday’s International Herald Tribune. He also had a Time Magazine from 1994- proving that everything is relative.
The official government paper, the New Light of Myanmar, is fascinating for many reasons. First, the slant and selection of the articles is so obvious as to be comical. For example, when we were in the country, the government was releasing the rules for next year’s “election” (which made front page news in the New York Times.) The front page articles for the New Light of Myanmar, however, were about important topics such as the government’s plan to create an electric car and, well, this headline speaks for itself:
Second, the level of journalism is rather basic (sort of a like a middle school class newspaper, to use the continuing theme of the school project to describe Myanmar). They are careful to pay attention to protocol issues (liking citing sources) while writing at a very basic level. For example, the source on many of the articles is “internet”:
The forms of address are so formal as to be amusing; each issue has about 15 pictures of and/or references to the leaders of the junta with their full military and civilian titles (“Prime Minister General Thein Sein Meets with townselders…”). And the captions on the pictures are classic: “Prime Minister General Thein Sein cordially converses with local people of Peletwa”- this certainly does look cordial (for a military interrogation, that is):