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Burma-Sponsored Media Workshop: A New Dawn For Press Freedom? – OpEd

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By Zin Linn

Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and Singapore-based Asia Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) jointly organized a two-day(January 30-31) media development workshop at Inya Lake Hotel on Monday, the state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Present at the media worship were CEC members of MWJA, officials from Ministries, personnel from media houses, resource persons from home and abroad, the paper said. More than hundred journalists took part in the workshop – ‘Development of Media in Democratic Myanmar’- and the event would be likely to offer opinions to the government of Burma concerning press freedom.

According to Mizzima News, heads of the BBC, VOA Burmese services and editors from Mizzima News participated in this media workshop. Also more than hundred domestic journalists and news editors took part in the conference.

At the ceremony, MWJA secretary U Ko Ko and leader of the AMIC Dr Kalinga delivered speeches respectively. Secretary of MWJA, Ko Ko commented the involvement of foreign media experts set up an international measurement to the seminar, which expected to carry out annually.

As said by the state-owned newspaper, a total of 11 resource persons, 9 from abroad and 2 from home, presented their discussion papers with reference to media related laws. Papers focus on topics – responding to internet age, disseminating public information in a democratic society, journalists’ perspective on media’s role in a democracy. A roundtable discussion on media law reforms and social responsibility of the media was also followed up.

Tint Swe, the deputy director of the Myanmar Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD) spoke his views on media ethics. Zay Ya Thu, editor of ‘The Voice’ journal and Than Lwin Tun (VOA Burmese Service) also presented papers for discussion, Mizzima News said.

Mizzima News said that one of its editors, Sein Win discussed three areas on Monday. Sein Win said “How can we achieve press freedom, how can we disseminate more information to the people, and the role of journalists in a democratic society. Then we exchanged views on media ethics.”

The participants also discussed about the topic of opening a journalism degree college during the meeting, Mizzima said.

According to a new report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, none of Burma’s recent media reforms have been fortified with amendments to existing legislation. Those laws include the harsh Electronics Act, which provides for lengthy prison terms for anyone who sends unsanctioned information over the Internet.

“Burma’s transition to democracy will not be legitimate without legal reform to ensure press freedom,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Draconian laws restricting reporting must be abolished, and imprisoned journalists immediately released.”

Unless the government guarantees human rights including the freedom of expression and freedom of association, the international human rights watchdog groups will not believe that Burma is on the right track of a democratic reform.

Burmese government also needs to abandon the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law which is still in practice. The Printers and Publishers Registration Law was introduced shortly after the 1962 military-coup that brought Gen Ne Win and his Burma Socialist Programme Party to power forcibly.

Under this law all printers and publishers are required to register and submit copies of books, magazines and periodicals to Press Scrutiny Boards (PSB) for scrutiny prior to publication or production, or in some cases after. The PSB, which was under the Ministry of Home and Religious Affairs, had general powers to veto publications and command revision in line with the junta’s policies, often at a large cost to the publisher.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association urge the Burmese authorities to:

Completely overhaul the laws governing freedom of expression, especially the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, article 505/B of the criminal code, the 1996 Television and Video Act, the 1996 Computer Science Development Act, the 1923 Officials Secrets Act and the 1933 Burma Wireless Telegraphy Act.

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Asian Correspondent

Asian Correspondent is an English-language liberal news, blogs and commentary online newspaper serving all of the Asia-Pacific region. The website covers asian business, politics, technology, the environment, education, new media and Asia society issues.

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