RANGOON — Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) pledged to make some changes to restrictive guidelines for reporters covering the November general election, according to the Interim Press Council.
Myint Kyaw, a member of Burma’s Interim Press Council, said the UEC had informed members of the group in a meeting on Sunday that they intended to clear up ambiguities in the guidelines that critics contend would limit the number and movement of credentialed correspondents on polling day.
The guidelines, set out in a letter sent to the press council in early August, stated that registered news organizations could only assign a maximum of three reporters to each township, and that those assigned must apply with the relevant sub-commission.
The sub-commission would then issue applicants a press identification card authorizing them to report on the polls in the township in which they applied.
Myint Kyaw said the election body admitted the guidelines contained ambiguities as they hadn’t consulted the press council before issuing the order.
“They should consider the concerns raised by journalists,” he said.
Media professionals have criticized the cap on journalists and raised concerns that reporters on polling day would be restricted to the single township stipulated on their press identification cards.
“At first, journalists will only get official approval to cover the polling precinct in the township where they got the press card. So we requested that be changed to the district [level]. There is already enough [guidelines] in other media laws and by-laws,” Myint Kyaw said.
He added that the press council requested that the UEC remove a demand stating that “journalists need to obey the directives occasionally issued by the Ministry of Information” and asked that freelance journalists, recognized by press associations or journalist groups, be able to obtain the relevant accreditation.
“The chair of the commission [Tin Aye] told us that there is no way that they won’t agree to our requests,” said Myint Kyaw, adding that the commission would make amendments within a few days.
He said that journalists needed to be clear on whether they could report from polling stations in other townships on election day.
The Union Election Commission said they would issue the press identification card the day following the deadline for reporters to register with respective election sub-commissions, November 5.