Press Council Releases Draft Code of Ethics

By Nyein Nyein 14 November 2012

Burma’s Interim Press Council has announced that it has drafted a new 15-point code of ethics that will apply to all journalists working in the country.

The 29-member body made the announcement on Tuesday following the conclusion of its fifth meeting since its formation on Sept. 17.

Thiha Saw, the coordinator of the council’s Information and Public Relations Committee, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the new code of conduct is for all media—print and broadcast, as well as online news agencies.

“We welcome suggestions from journalists on this draft, as we want to have all-inclusive views. Any good suggestions will be included in the final draft,” said Thiha Saw, who is also the editor of the Open News Weekly Journal.

The code of conduct focuses on issues essential to ethical journalism, including accuracy, unbiased reporting and journalistic independence. It also addresses correction of mistakes, protecting sources and avoiding defamation and plagiarism, and urges journalists to follow such standard practices as identifying themselves before acquiring information.

The Press Council also created four working committees to perform its tasks—resolving disputes and complaints; drafting the code of ethics and laws; finance and management; and information and public relations—and drafted its constitution.

The council will also deal with several complaints that it has received, including one from the Information Ministry, said Thiha Saw.

“The Disputes and Complaints Committee will handle the four or five complaints we have received so far,” he said, adding that the committee would resolve most disputes, except in cases that are too complicated and require the attention of the entire council.

The council also needs to spend more time on drafting a Press Council Law, a long-awaited piece of legislation that will replace Burma’s existing press code. Information Minister Aung Kyi said that a previous version of the new law submitted by the ministry earlier this year has been scrapped.

The Interim Press Council was formed after journalists shunned its predecessor, created by the government to replace the draconian censorship board, the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), which was abolished in August. The journalists said that the government-appointed council merely took over the duties of the PSRD.

The government has undertaken a number of media reforms since assuming power last year. Recently, it announced that state-run media will become “public service media.” The state-run newspapers The New Light of Myanmar and Kyemon have recently switched to a more colorful format and introduced some new content.

The Press Council did not open its office in Rangoon’s Bahan Township until Nov. 9. It said it will support its operations by itself, despite offers of assistance from the Information Ministry.