- By Maung Hlaing
Although my parents were uneduated, they could instil a habit of reading, or a good hobby of reading in me. Due to the dire consequences of the war, they had no access to formal education. However, thanks to the endeavours made by the Buddhist monks, they knew Three Rs–Reading, Writing and Reckoning. In other words, they were able to pursue monastic education–what we call vocational education in Ba-Ka schools today.
Despite the lack of (modern) formal education, the monastic education system inspired their enthusiasm to read a lot. My father had keen interest in reading newspapers which were out of reach for the rural people in those days. As for my mother, she took happiness in reading literary works of fiction written by Maha Swe, P.Moe Nin, and other famous writers. In this way, I think, my fervant wish to read books, periodicals and newspapers took root since the early days of my childhood.
As the dailies hardly reached our small town of Wakema, we had to read the old newspapers brought by those who came from the city of Rangoon (Yangon). I could remember that the paper we mostly read was “the Rangoon Daily” which was published in November, 1946 but the publishing ceased in June, 1972. Although we intermittently read the paper, it could widen our horizon to know what was going on in the world.
When I passed the 3rd. Standard of the monastic education, I moved to Yangon where I was brought up by my uncle who earned his living by working as a tinsmith. He was uneducated too but he read a lot. He was a subscriber to a daily known as the “Kyae-ni-Daily”, or the “Red Star Daily”, an evening paper. We had to pay only ten pyas per copy. All the news stories, articles some of which were witty and satirical, novels in series and advertisements were so attractive that we could not help waiting for the next issue. At that time, I was only nine years old and the Kyae-ni Daily became my heartthrob.
As a matter of fact, no one can deny the fact that a newspaper is nothing but a “Mirror of an epoch”. Besides, it is figuratively designated as a mouthpiece of a government or a people.
The dailies are the portals providing the people with health, educational and other important information released by the government. And in similar vein, they are the platforms where the voices of the people can be heard and desires of the people can be conveyed to the government.
According to the World Book Encyclopedia (N.O), hand written newssheets posted in public places were probably the first newspapers. The earliest known daily newssheet was Acta Diurna (Daily Events), which started in Rome in 59B.C. The world’s first printed newspaper was a Chinese circular called Dibao (Ti-pao). The Chinese bagan printing Dibao (Ti-pao) from carved wooden blocks during the A.D.700’s.
According to the records, the first newspaper in Myanmar was published in English. It was the Moulmain Chronicle which was published on 3 March, 1836 in Mawlamyine. In the time of Myanmar monarchs, the Yadanarbon Nay-pyi-taw newspaper was published with the guidance of Myanmar king. It was published on 22 April, 1874 in Mandalay in the reign of King Mindon of the late Konbaung Dynasty. The emergence of the old paper the Moulmain Chronicle was followed by so many newspapers–“Myanmar Thandaw Sint” in 1869, “Myanmar Thadin-sar” in 1872, “Lawki Thuta Pyinnya” published by the British Government in 1873, “Myanamr Ah-swe” in 1865, “Zabu Kyet-tha-yay” in 1895, “Taing-lone Zabu” in 1895, “Hanthawady” in 1897 and “Maha Bodhi” in 1902 respectively.
World War I (WWI) broke out between 1914 and 1918. Before the WWI, the youth members of YMBA (Young Men Buddhist Association) published “Thuria” newspaper on 4 July, 1911. “Myanma Alin” newspaper was published even in the year of 1914 when WWI began to break out.
The publishing of the newspapers did not cease even in the period of WWII. These papers were “Bama Khit”, “Myanma Alin”, “Thuria” “Dawei Daily”, “Kambawza” “Greater Asia”, “Mandalay Thuria” and “Taing Chit”.
During the post-war period and independence period, newspapers were published in Myanmar, English, Chinese, Indian and even in the ethnic languages. The regions where the newspapers were published were Mawlamyine, Mandalay, Dawei, Yangon, Thonze, Sittway, and Pakokku. However, most of the papers were published and distributed in Yangon and Mandalay. Besides, newpapers for youths, students and children have been published as well. The “Lu-ngae-Let-yone” came out on 7 April, 1939. The editor was Myoma Than and the motto was “Do things and give up your life for the nation”.
On 18 January, 1940, editor Daw Ma Ma Khin published the “Kyaung Thar”, (the Student) newspaper. After regaining independence, “Kalay Thadin-sar” (the Children’s Newspaper) emerged with the motto of “For Ko Khway and Ma Khway who will create the future Burma”.
In the time of Burma Socialist Programme Party (Government), we had two English dailies: The Working People’s Daily and the Guardian and the four Myanmar dailies: Lokethar Pyithu Nayzin, Kyay-mon, Botataung, Myanma Alin and Hanthawady. The editiorials and articles had to contribute only to the government policies and reading public became fed up with stereotyped news stories and articles.
Times have elapsed. Reforms that have taken shape after the democratic government came to power include the repeal of censorship on the press, permission for the publication of dailies, and the formation of literary associations. As a result, we can now enjoy reading of various kinds of newspapers including privately owned newspapers and State-run papers.
According to the Mirror Daily (Kyemon) issue on 30-3-2018, we’ve come to know that the Ministry of Information has already permitted to publish 44 papers–37 privately owned newspapers and 7 departmental newspapers. The seven departmental papers are Mandalay Daily, Yadanarbon, the City, Myanma Alin, Colourful Myawady, the Mirror Daily and the Global New Light of Myanmar.
Among the privately owned newspapers, 4 papers–The Straits Times, New York Times, Myanmar Times and China Daily-are published in English. The Myanmar newspapers being published are the Standand Time, Khit Thit, Democracy Today, 7 Day Daily, Daily Eleven, the Voice Daily, Pyidaungsu Daily, Myanamr Times, Myanmar Thandaw Sint, the Vitoria, and evening paper. Besides, there are newspapers and journals being published in ethnic languages such as Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Mon, Rakhine. Shan and Ta-ang (Palaung).
Today, all three State-run dailies in parallel with the privately owned papers are gradually changing in form and substance appearing in a new look and style with a large number of interesting stories. They all are trying their best to be more considerate of the readers’ satisfaction while serving as a bridge between the government and the people.
As for the State-run papers, they really are the bridges between the government and the people, concentrating on the things the government would like to inform the people. On the contrary, privately owned papers serve as a mouthpiece for the people. Actually, newspapers have a crucial role in the media industry and are regarded as the fourth pillar in many countries. They are also responsible for serving as a means of communication with the general public, known as the Fifth Pillar.
According to the ups-and-downs of life of media industry, high operating expenses have driven many newspapers out of business. Financial problems have hit hardest at some newspapers, which face special distribution problems as well as increasing competition from electronic media.
In this knowledge age or modern age, we cannot stay away from the papers. They have become so much a part of our lives that reading the papers is the first thing many people do after getting out of bed in the morning. We grab for the papers even before our eyes are fully opened. If there were no newspapers, we would have no way to know more about the developments in the world.
May existing papers be prosperous!
New papers are cordially welcome!
(Note: Names of the newspapers mentioned in this article are transliterated.)
Ref: 1. မြန်မာ့စွယ်စုံကျမ်း၊ အတွဲ -၁၂
2. The World Book Encyclopedia (N.O)
3. စာနယ်ဇင်းစုံ ခေတ်ကြေးမုံ (1983)