Myanmar has banned a controversial Time magazine cover story on Buddhist-Muslim religious violence “to prevent further conflict”, according to a government spokesman, after days of angry reaction to the article.
The ban of the piece, which carried a front page photograph of a prominent radical Buddhist monk accused of fuelling anti-Muslim violence with the headline ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’, comes despite the apparent easing of censorship rules in a reforming nation whose former military regime closely controlled the media.
Government spokesman Ye Htut posted news of the ban on his Facebook page, attributing the decision to a committee investigating deadly religious violence that has rocked the country as it undergoes democratic reforms.
“The article entitled ‘The Face of Buddhist Terror’ in TIME magazine July 1 issue is prohibited from being produced, sold or and distributed in original copy or photocopy in order to prevent further racial and religious conflicts,” Ye Htut’s post said, adding that further details will be in Wednesday’s newspapers.
The presidential office on Sunday said it “creates a misunderstanding of Buddhism” and undercut efforts to dampen tensions after two major bouts of violence in which scores have died — mainly Muslims — and thousands been driven from their homes by mobs.
Eyewitnesses to violence which flared in March in central Myanmar said people dressed in monks’ robes were involved in the unrest.
Radical monks have led a campaign to shun shops owned by Muslims. Wirathu has also called for a law to restrict marriages between Buddhist women and men of other faiths.
Senior monks, however, have accused foreign media of one-sided reporting of the Buddhist-Muslim conflict.