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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Burma, Writers and Censorship

On Thursday October 25, English PEN is hosting an evening event, Freedom Writ Large, to pay tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi and other Burmese writers. Melissa Benn will be chairing a panel of expert speakers and readers including John Pilger, Benedict Rogers, Zoya Phan, Justin Wintle, Maureen Lipman and Pascal Khoo Thwe. To book tickets please call English PEN on 020-7713 0023 or visit

The law requires that copies of all published material – books, magazines – be presented for scrutiny. The censorship office’s 11 guidelines for what cannot be printed still include “anything that might be harmful to national solidarity and unity … any incorrect ideas which do not accord with the times … [and] any descriptions which, though factually correct, are unsuitable because of the time or the circumstance of their writing”. Newspapers were nationalised in 1964. Ever since, official news has had only a glancing relationship to reality, while censorship has had a great impact on the nature and ambition of Burmese letters. Writers are never “able to write freely about what they feel and think”, says Anna Allott, a senior research associate in Burmese at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. It’s “a millstone round their necks”.

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