The government of Myanmar announced Monday that it has abolished the country's strict press censorship practices. While laws governing the content of published material will remain, the government abolished its practice of reviewing material before publication [Al Jazeera report]. A review board may still review publications after they are published and remove any illegal content. The new practice overturns a requirement of the last 50 years that all publications be submitted to a review board before publication. Critics have said that laws limiting the content of publications in Myanmar are vague and the government could still use them to prosecute political opponents. The relaxed censorship policy is the latest measure the new government has made an attempt to improve its international reputation following a transfer of power from a military regime to a civil system in 2011 after holding its first elections in 20 years.
While Myanmar continues to take steps forward in its reformation efforts, it has recently faced struggles with regards to sectarian violence within the country. President Thein Sein [BBC profile] last week announced the creation of a 27-member commission tasked with investigating the cause of the sectarian violence [JURIST report] between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused government forces [JURIST report] of human rights violations following the clashes. Last month spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Melissa Fleming reported that ten UN staff and aid workers had been arrested [JURIST report] in the northwestern Rakhine state and three of them are facing unknown criminal charges. In June HRW had urged [JURIST report] the Chinese government to provide basic food and shelter needs to refugees from Myanmar after finding refugee abuse. Earlier that month HRW also called on [JURIST report] Bangladesh to open its borders to Myanmar refugees a day after it demanded Myanmar ensure the safety of communities in the Arakan State subject to the violence between Arakan Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims.