CPJ disturbed by closing of current affairs journal

New York, September 21, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is troubled by the recent closure of the bimonthly current affairs journal Khit-Sann. Supporters of the journal charge that military censors shuttered Khit-Sann because it covered international issues and U.S. political ideas, according to CPJ sources and Radio Free Asia. Burma’s government denied the charges last week, citing instead financial and licensing issues as the reasons behind the journal’s closure.

According to a government statement excerpted by Agence France-Press, the official publisher of Khit-Sann decided to stop publishing the journal on September 1 “due to some financial problems.” Under Burma’s restrictive licensing laws, private publishers are obliged to lease licenses from government agencies. In the case of Khit-Sann, the editor of the journal, Kyaw Win, published under a license accessed through the Department of Parliamentary Affairs in Rangoon, sources tell CPJ.

Local and exiled Burmese journalists were not convinced by the government’s explanation. An unnamed Burmese media source interviewed by Radio Free Asia blamed military censors for the journal’s demise. “Military intelligence decided they should stop publishing,” he said to RFA. Another journalist affiliated with the journal told the Burma Media Alliance (BMA), a group of exiled journalists, that the head of the Press Scrutiny Board ordered the closure of Khit-Sann beginning September 1 without any explanation. The same journalist told the BMA that editor Kyaw Win was reprimanded by censors last month because Khit-Sann’s editorial line was allegedly “pro-American.”

Khit-Sann is a privately owned journal that began publishing in August 2003, featuring critical analysis of international affairs, economics, and ideas from political theorists including the U.S. writer Samuel Huntington, sources tell CPJ. Khit-Sann is translated as meaning either “Renaissance” or “New Age.”

“Sadly, conditions for the press in Burma continue to deteriorate,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “Whatever the reasons behind its closure, we condemn the restrictive licensing rules, censorship boards, and other obstacles journalists and editors face from authorities in Burma.”