for in the looking-glass world of Burmese politics, working out what is and isn’t “permitted” is still something of a guessing game. “The line is continually shifting,” explained an editorial spokesman for the Myanmar Times, a non-government weekly with dual Burmese and English language editions. “We seem to be able to publish stories that would have been unthinkable a year to six months ago.”
However, he explained, it was still a “trial-and-error process. The only way to be sure is to submit the pages and see what gets through.”
Every week, two days before publication, the Myanmar Times, along with other private weeklies (only government newspapers are permitted to publish daily), sends its proofs to the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, a coinage of which Orwell would have been proud. There, some 100 clerks pore over the text, excising paragraphs and, on occasion, whole articles deemed antithetical to the promotion of what – in a classic example of Burmese doublespeak – the regime calls a “discipline-flourishing democracy”. In the past, the censors might have excised as many as 10 articles. Now, the red ink runs to an average of just three a week."