Shwe Mann: ‘Parliament Ban on Media Came from the Military’

By Nobel Zaw 4 June 2015

RANGOON — In the Union Parliament in Naypyidaw on Wednesday, Speaker Shwe Mann told reporters that banning journalists from parliamentary chambers came at the request of the military.

Journalists have been prohibited from observing Union Parliament sessions since last week, ostensibly because of photographs published by the Myanmar Post Global that appeared to show a military lawmaker voting on behalf of his absent colleagues.

Media access to an interpreter’s booth above the Lower House chamber ended on May 26, and this week the ban was extended to the Upper House of Parliament.

Speaker Shwe Mann said that Brig-Gen Tint San—a Lower House lawmaker for the military—had sent him a letter on behalf of the Lower House military contingent in response to the damning front page report.

Tint San explained that the two military representatives absent in the photographs were attending a joint bill committee meeting and had instructed their colleagues to cast votes for them, adding that it would not happen again.

“[They] acted with honest intentions which the media should take into consideration,” Tint San wrote in the letter, which was read aloud by the Speaker. “In accordance with media ethics, [the Speaker] should limit the occurrence of such incidents.”

Speaker Shwe Mann said Tint San’s request for a media ban was “suitable and fair to the Parliament, the MPs and the media,” and issued the order to close up the booth.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Myint Kyaw, secretary of the Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), said journalists were within their right to record whatever they see from the booth. By bowing to the military’s request, he said, the Speaker has shown that the legislature will not tolerate the press if it exposes any wrongdoing.

“It goes to show that if the media is present, [lawmakers] are afraid their violations of the rules and laws will be publicized,” said Myint Kyaw. “To me, this is a sign that the Parliament doesn’t want to snub the military.”

MJN wrote to Shwe Mann last week to request a meeting about the ban, but has not received a response.

Journalists who regularly cover parliamentary sessions said they now watch the proceedings on a television monitor outside the chambers, broadcast exclusively by state-run media.