New Burmese Information Minister Aung Kyi told the chairman of the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA) on Sunday that the draft media law would be made public and the press will be consulted on its components.
Aung Kyi and MJA Chairman Maung Wuntha discussed press freedom in accordance with international standards, the development of the Burmese media landscape and industry ethics during the meeting.
Maung Wuntha told The Irrawaddy on Monday that, “[Aung Kyi] agreed to my suggestion that the views of journalists should be included in the draft media law before it is enacted.
“He said he will find a way for that to happen and then he accepted journalists’ demand to change some rules and regulations on the Myanmar Core Press Council [MCPC], and agreed to implement them as well,” he added.
“It is a good sign that the new information minister will let journalists know the draft media law,” Zaw Thet Htwe, the spokesperson for the Committee for Freedom of the Press (CFP), told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
The CFP, which was formed in the wake of Snapshot and The Voice Weekly journals being suspended by the government in August, took to the streets late last month to express their concern regarding state censorship.
Journalists asked to see the draft media law in order to provide feedback but their demands were turned down by former Information Minister Kyaw Hsan. “We are ready to cooperate for positive changes as the new minister’s stand is moving forward towards such changes,” said Zaw Thet Htwe.
“We have been worried about [the media law] as it has been drafted without the consent of journalists,” he added. “When we tried to view the draft law through parliamentarians, the attorney general’s office did not provide us [with a copy].”
In August, another journalist group—the Myanmar Journalists Network—also expressed concerns regarding the draft media law. They held a workshop on the subject towards the end of the month and presented their suggestions regarding the drafting process.
The CFP also submitted seven points regarding the proposed legislation to Thein Sein and the speakers of Burma’s Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament in early August. The parliamentary committee, led by the Upper House Speaker Khin Aung Myint, met with media representatives on Wednesday to hear their concerns—two days after the president reshuffled his cabinet and removed Kyaw Hsan.
Thet Htwe said that they have already gained half of their demands—the suspended journals are now allowed to continue printing, pre-censorship has been abolished and the parliamentary committees met with them in response to their demands.
But the CFP also called for the abolition of both the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act and the 2004 Electronic Act as well as legal action to reprimand journalists to be based on civil rather than criminal law.
“The new minister is expected to be a reformist as he has a sense of the media and journalists’ development,” said Maung Wuntha, “[Aung Kyi] understands the situation well even though [his position overseeing media and information] is a new environment for him.”
Although the issue of journalism ethics was discussed, Maung Wuntha said the press must take responsibility for their own professional conduct.
They also discussed the publishing of daily newspapers and Aung Kyi said that he was willing to implement this development quickly, although no specific date was set.
“Daily newspapers will come after the core press council is fully functional, I think,” added Maung Wuntha. The five journalists appointed to the 27-member interim press council have refused to take part until their demands for greater representation are met.