Exile English-language news magazine The Irrawaddy has finally gone on the market in Myanmar, with copies distributed legally within the country for the first time.
Copies of the first two editions of the magazine will be distributed for free.
“The magazine got official permission two weeks ago to distribute copies in Myanmar for the first time,” said Ma Aye Chan Myate, editor of the magazine’s Myanmar-language edition.
The magazine’s head office is in Chiang Mai and the English-language edition of The Irrawaddy has been published since 1993. Distribution inside Myanmar was banned by the military regime but two months ago The Irrawaddy opened an office in Yangon on 32nd Street. It now employs more than 25 journalists, some of whom relocated from its Chiang Mai office.
Ma Aye Chan Myaet said this would improve the editorial balance in the magazine, which she said was reduced from a monthly to a quarterly in December 2010 due to funding cuts.
“The magazine spent two decades in exile and although it focused on Myanmar news was out of contact with local people so that may have caused some disputes as to whether it was balanced in its reporting,” she said.
While The Irrawaddy employed “truthful” reporters inside Myanmar when it was banned, they worked under difficult conditions and many people were afraid to give interviews.
“We couldn’t keep in close touch with the public, there were gaps in the writing. We opened an official newsroom in Yangon to keep in touch with the public when we got an official licence to distribute,” she said.
“There is no longer a reluctance to give interviews to our reporters. Some people even contact us to provide news for our publication.
“We want to live inside the country. The past 20 years were trying times for all of us. We want to found an open and independent media inside the country, living close to the local people.”
Ma Aye Chan Myate said no decision has been made as to whether the magazine would be monthly or weekly.
“We want to stand as an independent and forthright media. That’s why we only came after censorship had been abolished. In future issues we will also report freely and openly what the public should know, as we have in the past,” she said.
The Irrawaddy also runs English and Myanmar language websites that are updated daily. Ma Aye Chan Myate said no decision had been made on whether to publish a Myanmar-language version.