By Zin Linn
The people’s parliament session of Myanmar (Burma) continued for the fifth day at People’s Parliament Hall in Parliamentary Building in Nay Pyi Taw Friday, attended by Speaker of the People’s Parliament (Lower House) Thura Shwe Mann and 346 Pyithu Hluttaw representatives, the state-owned media said today. At Friday’s session, 11 questions were asked and answered, one proposal was discussed and one proposal submitted, according to the New Light of Myanmar newspaper.
MP Tin Maung Oo of Shwe-pyi-tha Constituency made questions on “How to deal with the disappearance of one-side features of media houses which is the country’s fourth estate, emergence of journals that can actually reflect the people’s wishes and desires, getting rid of self-interested people for the publication of journals with affordable investments and measures to protect young reporters for promoting their skills and qualifications.”
The Deputy Minister for Information Soe Win replied that since the new government takes office, Ministry of Information has controlled the media sector through press scrutiny policies in order to disappear biased-writings in the country’s fourth estate. He said that journalists on their parts are to do their works with the sense of liberty and accountability, rationality.
When the press law comes out, media works have to obey the law and biased articles and news might disappear from media section if journalists and public do not accept it, the Deputy Minister said. Soe Win also said that there should be ‘freedom and accountability’ and ‘freedom and rationality’ in fourth estate publishing unbiased periodicals conveying the people’s wishes with self-respect. Based on national interest, journalists must present an issue from various angles for public information.
The Deputy Minister also explained that government has laid down five policies to ensure unity in democracy in the literary world. In the future, a ‘Press Council’ will be formed in harmony with the press law and it will supervise the journalistic work. When the new publishing law comes into force, people will have to be in charge of the literary sphere within its framework, he said.
In addition, Deputy Minister Soe Win said that the Ministry of Information and Myanmar Writers and Journalist Association (MWJA) are in cooperation conducting basic journalism course, and special journalism course. International scholars as well as internal experienced journalists have been invited to give lectures.
According to the deputy minister, three basic journalism courses have produced about 150 young journalists. Two basic writers’ courses have also produced about 100 new writers.
In the future, ‘Press Council’ and ‘MWJA’ will carry out journalism courses, workshops, seminars. Moreover, publishers and printing houses will also contribute to improve criterions of journalists. Journalists themselves will have to try hard with confidence for emergence of a proper fourth estate and professional journalists, the Deputy Minister Soe Win answered the respective questions.
Although Soe Win said about the press law and the press council, he did not make clear of the procedure relating to the law and the council. In actual fact, there is no journalists’ association in the country so as to promote and protect the rights of members of the media field. And the future press council should not be a government appointed club similar to the Myanmar Human Rights Commission.
In January, the new media law, drafted by the Ministry of Information’s Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD) was introduced at a two-day media workshop jointly organized by Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and Singapore-based Asia Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC). Tint Swe, the deputy director general of the PSRD presented some hints of the draft law but not the subject matter of the press law.
However, a source close to PSRD said that the draft law itself was adapted from the Printers and Publishers Registration Act enacted after the military coup by Ne Win in 1962.
If the government has a plan to draw a press law, it should let the participation of experienced journalists, editors, producers and publishers from the respective media fields. Furthermore, the government should invite media law experts, journalism consultants, human rights defenders and members of media watchdog groups from the international circle in order to create a standardized press law and press council to honor the freedom of the press.
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 correct path of a democratic reform.