NAYPYITAW—Union Information Minister U Pe Myint has rejected state broadcaster Myanma Radio and Television (MRTV)’s claim that the interruption of live TV coverage of a heated parliamentary debate on constitutional reform in January was caused by an optical fiber problem.
In the last week of January, Parliament was gripped by a fierce debate over National League for Democracy Upper House Lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt’s proposal to form a joint committee to work on amending the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. During one debate session, as the leader of the military-appointed lawmakers in Parliament defiantly stood up and began criticizing the proposal, MRTV’s live coverage suddenly dropped out. It was replaced for around 5 minutes by a song.
The Information Ministry initially said the problem was caused by a technical error. In a statement on Feb. 1, it quoted MRTV as saying that a malfunction involving the fiber-optic cable via which the broadcast was transmitted from Parliament to MRTV’s headquarters in Naypyitaw’s Tatkon Township forced the broadcaster to switch to a satellite cable system, temporarily disrupting its coverage.
Within a week, the Myanmar military said the fiber-optic system was not used that day, prompting the ministry to announce an internal investigation.
“We have taken action against those responsible for issuing false information. The process is partially completed,” Dr. Pe Myint said in response to a question from The Irrawaddy at a press conference at the ministry on Tuesday. He declined to give further details, and said the ministry would issue a statement when disciplinary action was taken.
It is not yet clear why the management of MRTV made a false statement about the cause of the incident. Ministry Permanent Secretary U Myo Myint Maung confirmed to The Irrawaddy that MRTV director-general U Myint Htwe had been transferred as punishment.
“I am serving as the acting director-general of MRTV. That’s all I can say because it is an ongoing case,” U Myo Myint Maung said.
U Myint Htwe was transferred to the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, an official at the President’s Office told The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity.
“As officials are involved in the case, we can’t cover it up when actions are taken against them. So, we will disclose it in a transparent manner later,” U Pe Myint said.
MRTV issued apologies for the disruption to the live coverage and later aired a recording of the debate in full.
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