The Burmese government’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) censored publication of a major part of US President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech in the Rangoon-based weekly journal The Voice, according to journalists in the former capital.
Sources said that the censorship board decided not to allow the publishing of parts of Obama’s inauguration speech that included sensitive political messages.
A part of the speech that was cut was: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Burmese inside and outside the country circulated this part of the speech through the Internet and it was widely interpreted as a message to dictators, including Burma’s rulers.
A journalist in Rangoon said that Burma’s censorship board ordered the speech to be removed from the front page of The Voice, but it allowed the journal to publish stories and pictures of Obama in its inside pages.
Burma’s privately owned magazines and journals have widely covered news of Barack Obama since the presidential election campaign began.
According to media sources in Burma, there was originally little harassment or any serious warnings from the notoriously fickle censorship board. But all publications have reportedly been careful not to cover sensitive material about the strained US-Burmese relationship.
Burma’s top military leader, Snr-Gen Than Shwe, formally congratulated the US president on his election victory.
Last week, the Agence-France Presse (AFP) news agency reported that the Burmese junta hopes that the new US president will change Washington's tough policy toward the military regime and end the "misunderstandings" of the past.
“Our two countries' relations have had some misunderstandings in the past with the Bush administration. Mr Obama needs to study our country's real situation so that he can change policy,” a Burmese official reportedly told AFP.
“There have been many mistakes in the past [in relations between the countries]. We have had misunderstandings. But now we are expecting good intentions,” he said. The official also accused former President Bush of making "one-sided" decisions.”
In spite of media restrictions, many people inside Burma watched the live televised coverage of Obama’s inauguration on satellite television.
Rangoon-based media sources said that the PSRD was acting under the instructions of the Ministry of Information. The censorship board did not permit the publishing of articles related to Obama’s speech in other weekly journals, including The Yangon Times and True News.