YANGON - Myanmar will allow private daily newspapers from April next year, the government announced on Friday, a big leap forward for a country that had barely any press freedom under its decades of military dictatorship.

Before the military seized power in a 1962 coup, there were more than a dozen local private dailies in multiple languages. At present, only state-controlled newspapers, mostly considered dull, propaganda-filled mouthpieces of the government, are allowed to publish on a daily basis.

"We can say it is the beginning of the third and final stage of the media reforms in the country," a senior Information Ministry official told Reuters, asking not to be named.

"We will accept applications in February and I expect there will be about a dozen applicants."

The decision comes as part of an astonishing relaxation of laws governing the media in Myanmar, among the most dramatic reforms introduced by Thein Sein's quasi-civilian government since it came to power 19 months ago.

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