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The military government in Burma has launched a new international television channel, presented by foreigners, that sources say could be a means to counter “mistrust” of Burmese reporters.
Myanmar International TV (MITV) is a product of the junta’s Ministry of Information, home to the notoriously draconian Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, the government’s censor board.
“The programmes are being presented by foreigners hired from Singapore who mainly promote travel and tourism in Burma,” said a Rangoon journalist close to the operating media group, Shwe Than Lwin.
He added that the majority of the daily two-hour programmes, which will broadcast inside Burma on the MRTV-3 channel and internationally via satellite, “are focused on culture, tradition and environment – topics that will gain interest from the international audience”.
But another source close to the group told DVB said that the reason for hiring Singaporean presenters went further than simply giving an international edge to the programmes.
“There is an argument that foreigners will only believe what other foreigners say, but not the Burmese who repeatedly praise the country,” he said.
Every television broadcast or piece of published information in Burma is required to pass through the regime’s censor board, which diligently checks for any signs of dissent against the military rulers.
Those deemed guilty can expect harsh retaliation, including lengthy spells in prison, and so self-censorship has become the norm in the pariah state. This means that journalists have little choice but to broadcast state propaganda.
Media watchdogs, such as the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, consistently rank Burma at the tail-end of media freedom indexes, largely due to the ongoing imprisonment of opposition journalists and tight restrictions on the freedom of the media to operate independently of the government.