Journalists Will Help Draft Press Law, Says Minister

Burma's Information Minister Aung Kyi (left) speaks to MJN's Myint Kyaw (center) and Tin Zar Zaw in Rangoon on Sunday. (PHOTO: Ministry of Information)

Burma’s Information Minister Aung Kyi (left) speaks to MJN’s Myint Kyaw (center) and Tin Zar Zaw in Rangoon on Sunday. (PHOTO: Ministry of Information)

Burma’s Information Minister Aung Kyi on Sunday told journalists that he wishes their participation in drafting a new media law at a series of meetings in Rangoon.

Speaking individually to seasoned and independent Burmese reporters, Aung Kyi said that he plans to reform the Myanmar Core Press Council (MCPC), and invite more journalists to participate in its meetings to discuss and draft a modern press law which meets international standards.

Aung Kyi, who replaced former Information Minister Kyaw Hsan in a recent Cabinet reshuffle, told the journalists that he would first offer the framework of the draft law to the Information Ministry for revision—a stage he referred to as “Zero Draft”—before making the draft law public and inviting members of Burma’s press corps the opportunity to offer their input.

Several journalists’ groups said they welcomed the offer of cooperation from the Information Minister, and said they would participate at the MCPC toward establishing a reformed press law.

Although he did not attend the meeting in person, MCPC member Thiha Saw, who is vice-chairman of the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), told The Irrawaddy on Monday: “It was interesting to hear about Aung Kyi’s plan. As far as I heard, the MCPC will drop the former restrictions on the press and on reporting.”

The MCPC, founded in early August, will now include government officials and local journalists and editors from broadcasting and print media.

Thiha Saw said he applauded the decision to invite members of various media groups to participate in MCPC affairs. Previous requests by journalists to inspect the draft media law with a view to providing input were rebuffed by Aung Kyi’s predecessor.

Several experienced media representatives have expressed skepticism that the new law will be sufficiently reformed and have suggested that it may be based too closely on the draconian 1962 press law.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, MCPC member Ko Ko said, “We now feel a sense of freedom.

“We must start working together to write a new law, and confine the 1962 law to history.”

Aung Kyi—a former labor minister and one-time government liaison to pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi—has previous experience in drafting legislation: he wrote the current labor law during his tenure with the Ministry of Labor, said Ko Ko.

Aung Kyi reportedly told journalists at Sunday’s meeting that he will make public the draft press law, consult with all journalists, and even hold workshops to discuss the draft before it is passed to Parliament.

A spokesperson for the Committee for Freedom of the Press, Zaw Thet Htwe, said he had a positive feeling from the meeting. However, he said, “We will need to wait and see to what extent our ideas are included.”

Myint Kyaw, the general-secretary for the Myanmar Journalist Network, said, “We [MJN] have requested permission to participate in the press law-drafting process for a long time. We sincerely hope that a new, good, comprehensive law will come out of this.”

Several journalists groups said they hoped the new press law will come into effect next year.

“Instead of rushing it through, we should take it slowly to ensure that a better media law is put in place,” said Ko Ko.


7 Responses to Journalists Will Help Draft Press Law, Says Minister

  1. Freedom of Press is limited to those who own one.

  2. George Than Setkyar Heine

    That is what I call COOPERATION and INCLUSIVE PARTICIPATION of course.
    And that should be the CASE for ALL DECISION MAKING processes in Burma as well.
    Hence, they say “TWO/MORE HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE” as well.
    In this way CONSENSUS a vital ingredient essential for EQUALITY, TRANSPARENCY, INCLUSIVENESS and UNITY could be achieved and hence, a relevant and crucial law highlighting FREEDOM of EXPRESSION – PRESS and MEDIA – could emerge in the interest of the people and country no less.
    Aung Kyi is the right man for the right job and at the right time as well I say.
    Inviting relevant people and personalities evidenced Aung Kyi has the character, charisma and qualities of a man relevant for the job no doubt.
    Under his watch PRESS and MEDIA FREEDOM would be ASSURED at last I say.

  3. To strengthen the press world of Myanmar, the minister is doing the right thing. Former minister’s approach was undemocratic but we all feel energized and hopeful under the leadership of the new minister. We all cheer.

  4. We should learn from established democracies in the world how laws should be properly formulated. Otherwise it will be somewhat like the confusing much car import laws which keep changing.

  5. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Participatory approach is the main key to unlock the whole potential of Burma to its success in building democratic society. The inputs of media community are a must to formulate press regulation, upon which both government and media itself can hold and know its related boundary. Freedom of press will help the society as a whole in its fight for fairness, good governance, stability and prosperity to which no one is left behind through the same set of rules agreed up on by all related parties.

    It is time to abolish all the outdated laws which doesn’t produce any contribution to the call of democratization that current administration is striving. Keep up more participatory approach to make better society since more heads are better than one for sure. Freedom has its own price and sharing the cost of the price is always a good practice for better community.

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  6. As all the “media people” inside and outside of Burma have been doing nothing but propagating and promoting Thein Sein’ s lines (lies) along with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Thein Sein Cheerleader, for the last year and half, it is not immediately obvious why should there be any need for any freedom.

    Most publications are or will be owned by Tin Aye’s son, for example, or diehard supporters like Tin Tun Oo, Ko Ko, that wonderful Egress thing , etc. any way, the need is surely cosmetic.

    What is more remarkable is Aung Kyi, the good guy, sitting in the traditional seat of authority in a Confusian Korean style while two lucky mesmerized blinking disciples are granted audience, a familiar scene in all the news now, usually with Aung Zaw or Toe Zaw Win or Than Lwin.

  7. In a democratic country ministry of information ( Kempeitai ) should be abolished to speed up the further democratization.

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