The Irrawaddy News Magazine [Covering Burma and Southeast Asia]

Burma’s New Media Law to Bring Press Freedom?
By WAI MOE / THE IRRAWADDY Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Burma's Union Parliament will discuss a new media law this month which promises greater press freedom, but critics remain concerned that the oppression of journalists will continue.

A media workshop called “Workshop on Media Development in Democratic Society” was held at Rangoon’s Inya Lake Hotel on Monday and Tuesday. Burmese journalists from the BBC Burmese Service, Voice of America Burmese Service and Mizzima News Agency were in attendance as well as media figures from around Southeast Asia.

The workshop was organized by the Writers and Journalists Association, under the Ministry of Information, and the Singapore-based Asia Media and Information Communication Centre.

Burma's censorship chief Tint Swe, head of the Department for Press Scrutiny and Registration, said that the drafted media law “will be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office for comments, then to the cabinet for approval and then to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw [combined Houses of Parliament] for approval.”

He added during his presentation that the new legislation will be entitled the “Printing Press and Publication Law” with 10 chapters including “Rights, Duties and Ethical Codes for Writers and Journalists” and “Penalties.”

The current censorship board will be dissolved under the new media law with a replacement “Committee for Press Freedom and Raising Ethical Standards” taking its place.

“Successful media strategies are increasingly dependent on the management of [this new media] policy,” Tint Swe told the workshop on Wednesday.

However, the censorship chief raised concerns by saying, “the media have been criticized for a variety of reasons: they are said to focus too much on conflict and personalities; they are involved in unnecessary intrusion of privacy; they exacerbate the distance between the public and those who govern them; they do not facilitate a great diversity of view-point.

“Media [was] central to both the freedoms and the disciplinary structures of the nation and national identity,” Tint Swe added.

But Tint Swe insisted that publications would be able to run with less external pressures under the media law.

But not all those in attendance agreed.

Burmese journalists expressed concern that the new media law was another attempt by the government to control and limit the press rather than protecting its freedom.

“I think this law is to control and limit us. I think this due to my past experiences,” said Pe Myint, the editor of leading Rangoon weekly Pyithu Khit Journal.

He added that although there will be no censorship board in the future, the looming media law will still restrict the Burmese press.

Other journalists said that the new legislation will mirror media laws in nearby southeast Asian countries with closely controlled print and television industries.

“I think the media law here will be more like in Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. If so, press freedom would not change much although it may relax somewhat. We cannot expect much. And we still cannot act like India’s media,” said Hein Latt, the editor of Popular News Journal and a central committee member of the Writers and Journalists Association.

Participants at the media workshop also discussed journalism training for media development at the two-day event.

Copyright © 2008 Irrawaddy Publishing Group |