Guwahati: Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) has expressed serious concern over the ban on a local newspaper by the province government of Chin in western Burma (Myanmar) and urged the Union government in NayPieTaw to allow the regular publication of the Hakha Post. Burma News International (BNI), an umbrella body of various progressive Burmese media outlets, said in a recent statement that the authorities had decided to ban the regional biweekly Hakha Post of Chin province, which is adjacent to India’s Manipur and Mizoram States.
By Nava J. Thakuria
“BNI has learnt that since 29th September the Chin State government has temporarily forbidden publication of the Chin (Lai) language newspaper the Hakha Post,” said the statement adding that the district authority called the editor of Hakha Post and informed him about the decision of Chin government (read State’s chief minister Hung Ngai). The Hakha Post is one of over 20 local newspapers with limited circulation in the capital Hakha and its surrounding localities of the underdeveloped province of Burma. Sparsely settled, the mountainous province has around half a million population and most of them are Christian Chin ethnic nationals. According to the Chin government the newspaper would not be allowed to publish until it obtains a legal publishing permit. BNI, while reposing faith on the transition of Burma from a military dictatorship to a multi party democracy, urged the highest authority ‘to allow full access to journalists and give them freedoms and rights’.
There has been a lack of news reporting for many years, especially from ethnic regions. The government has a responsibility to ensure ethnic people receive news and information. Moreover the government must stop this sort of ban on free speech and ensure everyone has proper access to news, added the BNI statement.
Supporting the BNI initiative, the JFA, a northeast India based active media forum, also appealed to the Burma President Thein Sein to look into the matter asking the Chin government to withdraw the ban on the newspaper immediately. “Banning a regional newspaper will not serve any purpose to the Burma authorities except spreading a negative impression about the regime and the nation as a whole,” said a JFA statement issued by its president Rupam Barua.
The JFA, which has been consistently supporting the progressive Burma media activists, at the same time appealed to the pro-democracy Burmese icon Aung San Suu Kyi to take personal initiative to resolve the matter. The forum strongly argued that if the southeast Asian nation had adopted democracy true to its terms, the Burmese people in power must shed their unwanted enmities towards the mainstream media.