IN HIS EIGHT YEARS as a television professional, Nay Linn Lwin’s work experience has been limited to producing soaps, humour shows and advertisements. Understandably, then, at a recent training programme in downtown Yangon that he attended along with 15 other local journalists, Lwin was stumped when asked to come up with ideas for news stories. “This is a new challenge for me, to think [of] news on television, but I promise to work hard,” 32-year-old Lwin said.
Like most private television professionals in Burma, Lwin has never worked on news because, under the chokehold of Burma’s military regime, private channels were only allowed to air entertainment programmes. News and current affairs were the exclusive domain of the television station MRTV-4, owned and managed by the government. Private channels were restricted to airing local serials, along with shows from the West and other Asian countries, with Burmese subtitles.
In Burma, print, television and radio fall under the supervision of the Ministry of Information, which has for decades implemented a brutal censorship policy. Any print, radio and TV material related to news or current affairs had to be submitted to the ministry for clearance. Anything deemed unacceptable or offensive was cut without explanation. Journalists in the country couldn’t dare criticise the government, for fear of imprisonment under antiquated laws.