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A Buddhist monk reads a copy of The Union daily newspaper in Yangon on Monday. Privately owned daily newspapers hit Myanmar's streets for the first time in decades. Ye Aung Thu / Agence France-Presse
A copy of The Voice newspaper is seen at a press machine house in Yangon on Monday. Since 1963, Myanmar's government has banned private daily newspapers but with effect from Monday, weekly news journals will be allowed to be distributed on a daily basis. Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters
Four private daily newspapers out of 16 granted licenses by the Myanmar government hit the streets on Monday, marking the reappearance of private daily newspapers in the Southeast Asian nation after almost five decades.
The four newspapers are Pyidaungsu Daily, Shwe Naing Ngan Thit Daily, San Taw Chein Daily and Voice Daily.
Pyidaungsu Daily is run by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party.
"We prepared for about six months to become a daily newspaper. We wanted to be part of this historical milestone," said Aung Soe, an editor of The Voice.
Among the front pages of the new dailies on Monday, Shwe Naing Ngan Thit Daily covered President Thein Sein's address to the nation about recent Buddhist-Muslim unrest and an upcoming trip by Aung San Suu Kyi to Japan.
Pyidaungsu Daily focused on news from the capital Naypyidaw.
The Voice printed an update on the situation in the western state of Rakhine - the scene of deadly communal strife last year - and a report on a weekend concert in Yangon by Danish band Michael Learns to Rock.
Newsstands in Yangon reported an early morning rush by readers eager to witness the latest change in the country.
"The Voice sold out soon after it arrived even though I ordered twice as many as other newspapers. People are keen to read private daily newspapers," said vendor Phyu Phyu.
The government took over private daily papers in 1964, according to veteran journalist Thiha Saw of Open News weekly.
A total of 16 weekly journals were allowed to become dailies under the new rules, including Suu Kyi's party paper, but logistical challenges mean some were not able to make the move immediately.
The English-language New Light of Myanmar is now looking for a private partner and prints Hollywood gossip in place of the shrill pronouncements of the past.
On the streets of Yangon on Monday, opinion was divided about the prospects for private daily papers, AFP reported.
"We worry that they will not be able to continue in the long term - people can't afford to buy all of them because the newspapers now come out at the same time," Kalar Lay told AFP. But fellow newspaper seller Win Myint said the recipe for success was simple: "If the reporting is good, people will buy it and read it."
A dozen other daily newspapers granted licenses are expected to appear at a later date.
Six state-owned newspapers are published daily in Myanmar, in addition to more than 200 privately run weekly news journals, as well as more than 200 magazines.
As part of its media reform, the government announced in December that it would allow the publication of private daily newspapers, dissolving its Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, a follow-up move after domestic media publication control was liberalized in August.
The Myanmar government also reformed its provisional Myanmar Press Council in September 2012 to deal with media issues before a media law is formally enacted by parliament.
(China Daily 04/02/2013 page11)