WASHINGTON — The United States on Monday welcomed Myanmar's announcement that it has abolished pre-publication censorship, but called on the nation to go further by abolishing its censor board.
"We welcome the announcement of the Burmese government that journalists are no longer going to need to pre-submit their articles to the ministry of information censor board," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters, using Myanmar's previous name of Burma.
"That's positive. That said, the censor board itself has not been eradicated, which is obviously a step that we would like to see the Burmese government take because they continue to monitor the press," she said.
Myanmar for decades had some of the world's most tightly controlled media, with officials checking everything from newspapers to song lyrics before release, but it has eased restrictions since it launched reforms last year.
Political and religious journals -- the last areas that required pre-publication checks -- were allowed to go to press without previous approval starting on Monday.
President Barack Obama's administration has put a priority on reaching out to Myanmar to encourage reforms. Last month, the United States suspended restrictions on companies investing in the former pariah nation.
Media rights groups also called on Myanmar to abolish the censorship board formally.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said that if the decision truly results in the end of pre-publication censorship, "it will mark an historic break with half a century of strict government control of print media content."
But the group in a statement voiced reservations, saying the order should apply to all forms of media and voicing concern that "other, inappropriate measures will be adopted as an alternative form of post-publication censorship."
An information ministry official told AFP that film censorship remained in place and that television journalists will "self censor" by asking for instructions about sensitive news.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, also called on Myanmar to abolish its censorship board and revise its laws, saying that otherwise its announcement on Monday "is a half-measure at best."
"Until the Burmese government undertakes thorough reform, journalists are still at risk of censure and the free flow of information cannot be guaranteed," Shawn Crispin, the group's senior Southeast Asia representative, said in a statement.
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