In Repost of ‘PM Apologizes to a Young Reporter,’ a Ye Htut Tut-Tut?

By The Irrawaddy 7 January 2016

RANGOON — A Facebook post on Thursday by Information Minister Ye Htut could well be interpreted as a tut-tutting of recent remarks by Win Htein, a National League for Democracy (NLD) central committee member who scolded a Radio Free Asia journalist this week after the reporter’s interview focused on the party’s reluctance to reveal its presidential picks.

Win Htein’s reaction to the RFA queries drew criticism from Burma’s fledgling press corps, which like the nation at large, is eager to glean the slightest of hints as at whom the party might favor for the top job.

On Thursday, a story that first appeared in state-run daily The Mirror was later reposted on the Ministry of Information website and then shared by Ye Htut. Headlined “Prime Minister Apologizes to a Young Reporter,” the article tells the story of the author’s friend, a journalist who was on the receiving end of a scolding of his own from former Prime Minister U Nu for a question he asked at a weekly press briefing held by the late leader.

As the article’s author Win Aung Gyi recalls it, the next week the press corps was silent when U Nu opened the floor to questions, prompting the prime minister to ask the assembled journalists what had them tongue-tied. Bamar Khit U Ohn Khin, a prominent  journalist of the time, responded that he and his fellow reporters, who were merely doing their jobs by asking at times tough questions, could not accept the prime minister’s high-handed rebuke of the “young journalist” in question, Sein Win, to whom U Nu then apologized, and asked for forgiveness.

Ye Htut’s repost contained no explicit mention of Win Htein, who at the conclusion of the RFA interview on Tuesday was thanked by the reporter, to whom the NLD leader frostily replied: “Don’t thank me, think seriously before you ask me questions.” The Irrawaddy reported on the dust-up between Win Htein and the press on Wednesday.

While Ye Htut’s post would appear to be a gesture of solidarity with Burma’s fourth estate, he has previously shown little desire to use his influence in government to put an end to the persecution of journalists that has taken place under the administration of which he is a part.