Burma's Journalists Can Form Independent Press Council

By Nyein Nyein 18 May 2012

The deputy-director of Burma’s censorship board has told journalists’ representatives that they can form a new press council freely and according to whatever specifications they choose.

At a meeting in Rangoon on Friday afternoon, officials of the Press Scrutiny and Censorship Board (PSRD) met with representatives of the three main media associations: Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), and Myanmar Journalists Union (MJU).

According to journalists at the meeting, PSRD Deputy-Director Tint Swe told them that they could “forget about” the three-page proposal for Press Council regulations that Information Minister Kyaw Hsan had handed out over the weekend, and that the PSRD would not insist that the journalist unions follow his proposed regulations.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Friday, Ko Ko, the general-secretary of the MJA’s organizing committee and the CEO of the Rangoon Media Group, said, “We [the journalist organizations] have reached an agreement with the PSRD that we shall propose the functions of the new press council as we wish.”

Under the government’s proposed regulations, a press council will monitor journalists to ensure their work is in accordance with the 1962 Printer and Publisher Registration Act and the government’s 12-point censorship policy. This objective is disputed by the journalist organizations which say a newly formed press council should be an independent organization working on media ethics and for the protection of journalists.

Zaw Thet Htwe, an organizing committee member of the MJU, said after the meeting that all of Kyaw Hsan’s proposals had been withdrawn.

“We will compile our own set of proposed rules for an independent press council,” he said.

After Friday’s meeting in Rangoon, the MJN released a statement saying that “the new Press Council won’t be a replacement of the [old] Censorship Board.”

It also stated that the Print Media Law, which is to be drafted by the Information Ministry, will not be passed to the Parliament before the formation of the Press Council.

Friday’s meeting was convened after the MJA told the national media that it will submit to the government a letter of objection against the proposed press council regulations.

However, MJA representatives told The Irrawaddy on Friday that they had not submitted the letter.

“I think this shows that they [the Ministry of Information] respect the importance of the media. The fact that they called us and explained,” Ko Ko said. “Before, we thought we would have to follow their proposal even if we did not agree with it. However, I reckon we now have passed the first step.”

He said that each group will work on a list of its own regulations and submit it to the ministry before May 31. “Despite being three separate groups, we share common ground,” he said. “This is a very good start.”