Photos published in the New Light of Myanmar.
Freedom of the press has been improving in Burma recently. Case in point: the Myanmar Times, a privately-run weekly newspaper, has dared to question the veracity of a photo caption published in the New Light of Myanmar, a government mouthpiece.
A recent article published in the New Light of Myanmar was illustrated by two photographs, one showing a man lying inert on the ground, another showing a badly-damaged motorcycle. Both were presented as being the result of a mine blast. Their caption read: “An innocent people [sic] dies in mine blast by KIA (Kachin) group near Zanan village on Myitkyina-Putao road”. The Burmese army is currently battling armed rebels in Kachin state, in the country’s far north.
According to the Myanmar Times, the photo of the damaged motorcycle was in fact taken in the aftermath of a plane crash that took place on December 25 near Heho airport, in central Shan state.
Criticising a newspaper controlled by the state would have been unthinkable even a year ago, when the government still censored all newspapers. (Censorship officially ended in August 2012, though our Burmese Observers believe self-censorship is still a problem in many newsrooms). However, in a sign that Burma is slowly opening up, Burma’s deputy information minister, Ye Htut – who is also the spokesperson for the president’s office – immediately admitted the error: “I’m really ashamed about this. We will have to try to learn from it,” he said, adding that the mistake may have impacted readers’ trust in state-run media.
Ironically, according to the Irrawaddy magazine, Burma’s information minister had recently criticised privately-owned media for publishing “false information” about the conflict in Kachin state.