Big Step Towards Press Freedom As BBC Opens A Bureau In Burma

The BBC hails one of the most “hard-fought” offices it’s opened anywhere in the world. posted on

1. The BBC is to open a bureau in Burma/Myanmar in 2014. The BBC broadcasts all over the world, reaching an audience of more than 250 million people in total from its many bureaus, but this one is a bit different.

2. Working alongside three other international broadcasters, the Beeb will publish on TV, radio and mobile.


The BBC’s Burmese service has been available since 1940 and has been a major source of news for Burmese people living at home and abroad - but it’s a big step to be allowed to open a permanent bureau.

Burma’s military junta ruled the country from 1962 to 2010, when its first general election installed a nominally democratic regime, although key government roles and one quarter of parliamentary seats are still held by the same military accused of longstanding human rights abuses, including forced labour and relocations. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy boycotted the election.

3. Peter Horrocks, the BBC’s director of global news, says:


This weekend I received news I never thought I’d hear. The Myanmar Ministry of Information announced that the BBC, along with three other international news agencies, had been given official permission to open a news bureau in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

It is hard to overstate the significance of this news, nor the astonishing pace of change in a country which has long been a byword for media repression and censorship.

4. Press freedom campaigners accuse the Burmese regime of state censorship, arrests and harassment of journalists.


Horrocks says the state broadcaster was “literally the mouthpiece of government - reading word-for-word the news delivered to them by the state news agency.”

In May 2011 the regime said it would stop the forcing print media to submit any articles to the Press Scrutiny Board for approval. But Reporters Without Borders says this only benefitted about 60 percent of the country’s titles and caused them to self-censor for fear of reprisals.

Although some argue that Burma/Myanmar is now more free than it has ever been despite huge challenges.

5. The excellent film Burma VJ from 2009 illustrated just how precarious reporting the news there can be.

The BBC will be working with Burmese journalists, giving advice and training to reporters at the state-run broadcaster there in editorial values and technical skills.

6. So thanks to the Beeb there will be more scrutiny of what President Thein Sein gets up to as he tries to rebuild the country’s image on the world stage.

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