Selection Process for New Press Body to Begin Next Month

By Moe Myint 4 September 2015

RANGOON — The candidate selection process for the 29-member News Media Council, which will replace Burma’s Interim Press Council, will begin in October, according to Thiha Saw, vice president of the Myanmar Journalist Association.

Under Burma’s Media Law, enacted in March 2014, the president is obligated to establish the council which is charged with regulating all forms of media in the country.

The Interim Press Council announced details of the new body’s structure at a press conference in Rangoon on Thursday.

One person will be drawn from the Myanmar Journalist Network, the Myanmar Journalist Association, the Myanmar Journalist Union and Burma News International respectively; two from the existing Interim Press Council; six from news media organizations; eight from publishing, writing, poetry or cartoonist associations; two independent candidates; and four “experts” drawn from legal, social or economic fields.

Three other members of the 29-member council are each appointed by the president and the lower and upper house speakers of Parliament respectively, as stipulated in the Media Law.

Applications are sent to the press council’s election team which will determine final candidates.

“There are only three appointees nominated by the president and parliamentary speakers, but the 29 members will freely vote for crucial posts like the council’s secretary,” Thiha Saw told The Irrawaddy on Friday.

Myint Kyaw of the Myanmar Journalist Network said he did not foresee undue government influence over the new body but said that criticism was likely to center on whether working journalists were adequately represented.

Kyaw Min Swe, secretary of the Interim Press Council and editor of The Voice Daily, said the selection process and procedures had already been made known through last year’s Media Law and that new critics simply “hadn’t done their homework.

In an analysis of Burma’s Media Law in July 2014, UK-based freedom of expression advocacy group Article 19 expressed concern that the media council, as set out in the Media Law, would not be independent from government and that the council “should not have any powers over print or internet-based media, which should be self-regulated.”