Fri 20 Sep 2013
Filed under: Inside Burma,Media,News
In other parts of the world, people read the International Herald Tribune (IHT) over their morning coffee. The paper’s subscribers in Burma’s former capital, however, usually get their daily delivery after lunch, and sometimes later.
But when printing of the paper begins in Rangoon on Monday next week, the readers of the global edition of the New York Times in the Southeast Asian country’s financial hub will no longer need to be patient.
“Readers here will be able to enjoy IHT at their breakfast time starting from Sept. 23,” said Myo Aung, the owner of Success International Publisher’s Distributor Co., Ltd., which has the permission from the IHT’s parent company, as well as the Burmese government, to print and distribute the paper six days a week in Burma.
“As far as I’m concerned, it will become the very first international newspaper printed and distributed here.”
The IHT has more than a dozen printing-sites across Asia, and Burma is the latest. “Printed in Myanmar” will be clearly printed on the front page.
Myo Aung has distributed the IHT in Burma since 1994 by buying the papers at wholesale price and selling them at retail price in the country. Every morning he has had to ship the papers printed in Bangkok via airlines. Customs procedure at Rangoon airport, fight delays and daily submission to the now-defunct Literary Scrutiny Board for distribution approval in the past made it impossible for Myo Aung to provide a morning delivery to his subscribers.
“Now, with printing here, we don’t need to think about [those problems],” he told the Irrawaddy before adding that subscribers in Rangoon will get early morning delivery while those in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, and Mandalay, the second biggest city, will have noon deliveries.
He said the paper printed in Rangoon will not be much different from its counterparts in other countries, except it will not be in color. The IHT printed in neighboring Bangladesh is also in black and white due to technical difficulties.
“But the content is the same,” he said. The owner explained that not printing in color also has an upside because it will save some production costs, making the price cheaper than the current newsstand price—US$4.50 per copy. The exact cost of the Rangoon-printed edition has not yet been set.
With diplomats, international organizations, executives and hotels on his subscriber list, Myo Aung said the IHT printed in Rangoon will first go to subscribers and then hit Burma’s newsstands in places frequented by foreigners. Currently, the IHT is only available to subscribers.
“Telling you the truth, we don’t have much circulation like other dailies published in Burma today,” he said. “It’s risky, but, with a rise in subscriber numbers, we, hopefully, will be alright.”
He also noted that the IHT has announced that it will change its name globally from the International Herald Tribune to ‘International New York Times’ on Oct. 15, and plans to insert a Burma focus section later.
With the demise of the Literary Scrutiny Board, Myo Aung said, he hopes he will not face many challenges nowadays. There were some days in the past that his crew could not deliver the IHT in Burma until about 7 p.m., if a critical story on events in Burma caught the eye of the censors, he said.
If the officials decided a story was not suitable for Burmese eyes, it would be cut out of each copy by hand, Myo Aung said. When negative Burma news made the front page, the whole paper was banned.
“All I could do was apologize to the subscribers,” he recounted. “Thank God, many of them were foreigners who understood about the literary censorship here.”
But, Myo Aung admits, there remains a challenge: frequent Internet blackouts in Burma, a country that is infamous for its snail’s-pace Internet connections. Every day, he will have to download the whole newspaper in a PDF format before it goes to the printer, any interruption to the connection would be big trouble for him.
“It gives me a serious headache,” he said. “If the Internet is totally down, I will have to ship the papers from Bangkok and distribute them, but it will make delivery one day later.”
Win Tin, a veteran journalist and one of the founders of the Burma’s opposition National League for Democracy, said he welcomes the printing of the IHT in Burma. The 83-year old said he personally likes to read newspapers in print because the Internet is beyond him.
“It will be good for anyone who wants to learn about what is happening in the world today, for IHT has good coverage on international affairs,” Win Tin said.
“But being an international newspaper, I think the price per copy will not be that cheap.”