The Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army) this week issued a directive through the Irrawaddy Division government requesting that local media refrain from stipulating the military ranks of ethnic leaders in their reporting, journalists told The Irrawaddy.
The instruction was relayed from the Burma Army commander-in-chief’s office to the Pathein-based South Western Command which then informed the Irrawaddy Division government.
“The [divisional government’s] Information and Public Relations Department called us and gave us official written instruction,” Zaw Tint, chairman of the local chapter of the Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), told The Irrawaddy.
The letter instructs that the ranks, such as General and Lt-Gen, of ethnic armed group leaders should not be used in media reports. The Information and Public Relations Department handed the letter to the local Myanmar Journalists Association on October 8, which posted it online.
Lt-Gen Yawd Serk and Gen Gun Maw, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State and vice chief-of-staff of the Kachin Independence Army respectively, are used as examples in the directive.
The military “should instruct the central [government] rather than divisions or states,” said Thiha Saw, a senior member of the MJA. “They should make an official announcement.”
The military should also inform media organizations such as the Interim Press Council and the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN) directly, said Thiha Saw, who is also a member of the Interim Press Council.
At a meeting attended by military officials including Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and the Interim Press Council in September, a senior military officer had made the same request, according to veteran journalist Poe Thaukkyar who attended the meeting.
“Their letter includes a phrase [asking the local government] ‘to supervise and monitor the media.’ We oppose this choice of words. It oversteps the media law. The government is not authorized to [issue directives] as long as we report in line with ethics and within the legal framework,” said Ye Yin Htun, editor-in-chief of the Myanmar Herald Journal in Irrawaddy Division.