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Cablegate: Burma: Meeting with State-Run Newspaper "New Light Of

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PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHTRO
DE RUEHGO #0734 3140952
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100952Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY RANGOON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9591
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 2331
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 5784
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 9389
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6975
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2760
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS RANGOON 000734

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO PGOV PINR EAID PREL PHUM BM

SUBJECT: Burma: Meeting with State-Run Newspaper "New Light of
Myanmar"

Summary
-------

1. (SBU) On November 5, Public Affairs staff visited the Rangoon
headquarters of the New Light of Myanmar (NLM) -- the government-run
English language daily newspaper. The editors, who in background
and manner are more akin to bureaucrats than journalists, admitted
their paper is a propaganda tool that cannot compete with private
papers except on price. The visit was timely -- most NLM staff had
just received orders to move to the new capital Nay Pyi Taw. End
Summary.

Participants and Background
---------------------------

2. (SBU) PAO, APAO, and senior press specialist visited the
downtown Rangoon headquarters of NLM on November 5 -- the first such
visit by Embassy staff in recent memory. Chief Editor Than Myint
Tun, several deputy editors, and a chief editor for the Myanmar News
Agency (MNA, the government news service that supplies all of the
articles for state-run media) were present. Apart from Than Myint
Tun, none have a journalism background. A couple joined the NLM as
editors by taking a civil service placement exam.

3. Burma has three state-run daily newspapers: Kyemon, Myanmar
Ahlin, and NLM (which is an English translation of Myanmar Ahlin).
All of the papers and MNA are part of the Myanmar News and
Periodicals Enterprise, which falls under the Ministry of
Information. The claimed daily circulation of the New Light of
Myanmar is 20,000. The combined daily circulation of Kyemon and
Myanmar Ahlin is a claimed 300,000.

"We Boast of Our Country's Achievements"
----------------------------------------

4. Than Myint Tun and his staff seemed ill at ease throughout the
meeting. They contributed very little to the conversation and
replied tersely to our questions. Nevertheless, it was apparent
that they understand their role to be a propaganda mouthpiece. Than
Myint Tun said his paper aims to "boast of our country's
achievements, and how we are doing our best." He insisted that he
has final say on the layout and content of his paper, though he said
the editorials are written by MNA staff. When asked how NLM stays
competitive with privately run weekly newspapers, a deputy editor
simply said, "Our paper is very cheap." (Note: the NLM costs about
five cents per issue, compared with 40-50 cents for privately owned
papers.)

5. Since the meeting took place one day after EAP Assistant
Secretary Kurt Campbell's meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, which an
NLM photographer had covered, we asked why that day's edition did
not include a photo.) The chief editor responded that there was "no
space." NLM very seldom covers U.S. Embassy and USG activities. In
October, the editor and two NLM reporters attended a press briefing
by the Charge d'Affaires on the U.S. Burma policy review, but the
paper never carried an article on the event.

Moving to Nay Pyi Taw
---------------------

6. The NLM staff confirmed reports that NLM and the other state-run
newspapers were in the process of moving the bulk of their
operations to Nay Pyi Taw. Most of the NLM chief editors and deputy
editors were planning to move. The paper will keep some reporters
and staff in Rangoon and maintain printing presses in both cities.

DINGER

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