By Zin Linn
Burma Media Association (BMA) released a press statement on 9 February concerning about the new media law put forward by the Burmese government last week. BMA says that government’s new media law may not guarantee freedom of press as well as freedom of expression.
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 in Rangoon, the state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper said on 1 February.
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.
The new media law, drafted by the Ministry of Information’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) was introduced at a media workshop jointly organized at the end of January by Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and Singapore-based Asia Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC).
Even though local journalists, foreign-based Burmese journalists and journalists from Asian countries were invited to the two-day event, the participants didn’t get a chance to thoroughly discuss the fundamental nature of the law.
According to Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Mr. Tint Swe, the deputy director general of the PSRD only presented the Table of Contents of the draft law but not the subject matter of the law. According to the BMA, sources close to the PSRD told that the draft law itself was adapted from the Printers and Publishers Registration Act enacted after the military coup d’état by Ne Win in 1962.
BMA analyzes the draft media law that it should not be based on the notorious Printers and Publishers Registration Act of 1962 which is a synonym of oppression against the press.
“We need a fresh start,” the BMA’s chairman Maung Maung Myint said.
The BMA urges the government to abolish the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, and completely overhaul the laws that restrict freedom of expression, such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, Article 505/B of the Criminal Code and the 1923 Official Secrets Act.
On 10 February, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) issued a press release in support of BMA’s statement on Burma’s new media law. IFJ says that Burma’s new media law needs to ensure press freedom.
“It is important that any new media laws introduced by the government of Burma improve press freedom, and provide greater freedom and security for journalists”, IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.
The IFJ joins the BMA in urging the government of Burma abolish the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, and associated laws designed to restrict freedom of expression, such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, Article 505/B of the Criminal Code and the 1923 Official Secrets Act.”
In its press release BMA also highlights, “Although Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index 2011 ranked Burma a slightly better position (169th) than in 2010 (174th) as a result of political reforms including partial amnesties and a reduction in prior censorship, it remained largely under the control of an authoritarian government run by former members of the military junta reinvented as civilian politicians. At least seven journalists still remain in prison at the start of 2012.”
In August parliamentary session, Thingangyun Township’s Member of Parliament Thein Nyunt submitted a proposal to the People’s Parliament to revoke the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, that was adopted under the pretext of an on-going civil war at the time, along with criminal laws relating to it, according to Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)’s news dated 31 August 2011.
Thein Nyunt’s proposal was discussed and voted in the parliament; the results showed there were 336 votes against, 8 in favor and 41 abstaining votes, quoting MP Pe Than of Myebon Township in Arakan State, DVB reported.
The said law is widely used by the successive Burmese governments to discriminate against political activists and journalists.
Without ensuring freedom of the press, no one will believe the reform made by the government as a genuine process. As the press is the fourth pillar of a democratic country, Burma must abandon all its unfair laws and regulations that oppressed the freedom of expression.