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Burma’s Organising Committee for the Formation of the Myanmar [Burma] Press Union released a statement on Saturday stating that the ban placed on Snapshot weekly news journal could inhibit the country’s reform process.
Snapshot’s operations were suspended for one month after the periodical published a photograph of Thida Htwe’s corpse, whose rape and murder helped sparked the sectarian violence in Arakan state in June.
“There should be clear specifications concerning [punishments] for the [infringement of press regulations] otherwise it will allow the rulers to extend or manipulate sentences at their will,” said Zaw Thet Htwe, a well-known former political prisoner and leading member in the committee.
“This could become an obstacle on the [country’s] democratic transitional path.”
Although the penalty imposed by the Ministry of Information was set to expire after one month, the government body has yet to lift the order while the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, or censor board, said dropping the ban requires approval from the president’s office.
“[Burma] was behind in developing during the past 20 years because of these types of ruling systems being used now where everything has to go through the president’s office,” said Zaw Thet Htwe.
“We see the ruling system now is still based on [power centralisation] and this gives us a lot of questions regarding the reform process.”
The journal’s editor Myat Khine is also facing a defamation lawsuit from Rangoon division’s government under article 500 of the state penal code.
“I think the journal should be allowed to continue publishing,” said said Ye Htun, Shan Nationalities Democratic Party representative and a member of Sports, Culture and Public Relations Development Committee in the parliament’s Lower House.
“I think it’s not right that it is already being punished before the court passes a decision.”