Information Access on Agenda as Media Prepare for Military Meeting

By Nobel Zaw 28 November 2014

RANGOON — Burma’s Interim Press Council held a meeting with journalists on Friday to decide the main topics to be discussed at a first-ever workshop between members of the media and military officers, which is expected to take place next month.

The meeting was held at the council’s office in Rangoon and was attended by representatives from more than 20 local media outlets.

Myint Kyaw, founder of the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), told The Irrawaddy that participants discussed a range of topics and issues related to the relationship between Burma’s media and the powerful military establishment.

“We have four main topics, such as access to information, discussing difficulties that both sides have in understanding the other; writing a code of conduct for journalists that would apply to their reporting on military news,” he said, adding that he could not recall what the fourth topic of discussion would be.

The council’s vice president, Pho Tauk Kyar, told The Irrawaddy that the press body would organize journalists into four groups of three members each to discuss the issues agreed to on Friday, with each of the groups assigned one of the issues.

“We will view this opportunity [to meet with military officials] as a chance to build a better relationship between the military and journalists.”

The workshop will be hosted by the Defense Ministry’s Department of Public Relations and Psychological Warfare. It is expected to be held in mid-December.

On Nov. 23, members of the council met with Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and other military officials for the second time in Naypyidaw.

Min Aung Hlaing, Burma’s commander in chief, told members of the council at the meeting that the military would hold the workshop as soon as possible, according to Myint Kyaw.

The Interim Press Council has sought to step up engagement with senior government officials this year. Members of the council have met with President Thein Sein twice and in August reached an agreement to meet with Information Minister Ye Htut once a month. The press body was established by the government in 2012.

For its part, the military has indicated that it would like to develop more effective communications with the press, announcing on Monday that it would set up an official email account to which journalists could direct inquiries. The military also pledged to update news on its website in a more timely manner.

The Ministry of Defense’s most recent posting to its website was made on Oct. 10.