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Myanmar allows private newspapers

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar said Friday it will allow private daily newspapers starting in April for the first time since 1964, in the latest step toward allowing freedom of expression in the long-repressed nation.

The Information Ministry announced on its website that any Myanmar national wishing to publish a daily newspaper will be able to submit an application in February.

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Papers will be allowed to begin printing April 1 in any language.

The move was an expected part of new press freedoms President Thein Sein has introduced as part of wider democratic reforms since taking office last year, after a half-century of military rule.

In August, the government abolished direct censorship of the media and informed journalists they would no longer have to submit their work to state censors before publication as they had for almost half a century.

Myanmar has state-run dailies that serve as government mouthpieces and more than 180 weeklies, about half of which cover news while the rest feature sports, entertainment, health, and other subjects.

Private dailies in Burmese, English, Indian, and Chinese languages were once vibrant in the former British colony, previously called Burma.

But all were forced to close when late dictator Ne Win nationalized private businesses in 1964.

Under Ne Win’s one-party Socialist government the standard of newspapers diminished to propaganda sheets.

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