State Media Apologizes for Misusing Photo

By Nyein Nyein 31 January 2013

Burma’s state media issued an apology on Thursday after it was revealed that state-run newspapers had used a photograph showing the aftermath of a plane crash with a report on an alleged landmine blast blamed on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The mislabeled photograph appeared in the Jan. 28 issue of The New Light of Myanmar and its Burmese-language version Myanmar Ahlin, and was first pointed out on the website of The Myanmar Times, a privately owned weekly journal, on Wednesday.

The News and Periodical Enterprise, which operates under the Ministry of Information, released a statement on Thursday apologizing for the error and saying that it had warned the reporter not to repeat the mistake.

Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut, who is also the spokesperson for the President’s Office, also expressed “shame” at the incident, but told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the facts in the story were correct, even if the photo did not match the report.

“I am really ashamed about this. We will have to try to learn from it,” he said, adding that the mistake  had hurt readers’ confidence in state-run media.

The photograph, which actually showed the wreckage of a motorcycle destroyed in a plane crash near the Heho Airport in Shan State on Dec. 25, carries a caption that reads: “An innocent people [sic] dies in mine blast by KIA (Kachin) group near Zanan village on Myitkyina-Putao Road.”

The one-paragraph article and caption are both credited to MNA, the Myanmar News Agency, which usually distributes speeches by government officials and reports on ministerial and parliamentary activities, as well as war-related news.

A source who works for the MNA told The Irrawaddy that its reporters and editors are closely supervised by senior officials.

“Almost all of the news stories have to be passed to the deputy minister, who takes responsibility for monitoring of the newspapers,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Ironically, the report with the erroneously labeled photograph appeared on the same day that state-run media published a statement by the Ministry of Defense accusing privately owned media and international organizations of fabricating news about the Kachin conflict.

“Although the official media stated the atrocities of KIA … those organizations turned a blind eye to the actual events and issued fabricated news. Such biased news could cause misunderstanding in the public and international community,” the statement said.