Tatmadaw Accuses Media of Unfair Coverage

By Htet Naing Zaw 24 June 2019

NAYPYITAW—Major-General Tun Tun Nyi, vice-chairman of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team, has criticized the media, accusing some news agencies of quoting the Tatmadaw’s press releases out of context for their own financial benefits.

“We meet the media and tell them, to put it colloquially, not to do business, but to help people make informed decisions,” said Maj-Gen Tun Tun Nyi, at the military’s monthly press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday.

The Tatmadaw holds press conferences in order to keep the public informed through the media, but some media agencies, he said, seem to have focused only on the negative side of the Tatmadaw.

At a press conference in early June, the Tatmadaw True News Information Team elaborated on public service works undertaken by the military, compensation it paid for fallen soldiers, and relief supplies provided by the Tatmadaw to families in disaster-hit areas. But the media chose to report none of the incidents, he said.

Similarly, the media did not report about the navy and air force’s cooperation with neighboring countries and fellow ASEAN members, the Tatmadaw’s achievements in human resource development or in fighting drug abuse, he added.

Reporters will only pick up things that have news value, and it is the right of reporters and editors to choose angles for their reports based on their significance and possible extent of impact, said Yangon-based journalist U Sein Win.

“The Tatamdaw speaks a lot at its press conferences, which usually last for hours. In communication, the more you speak, the more you reveal yourself, and it has a negative effect. So the Tatmadaw should consider what message it wants to give before holding a press conference. It is the wrong approach to use media for propaganda, and it won’t be successful,” U Sein Win told The Irrawaddy.

“A press conference is meant to inform [the public] about what you did and how to overcome challenges. It must have a message, and only that message and that theme should be talked about. So you might see that press conferences at the Pentagon do not last long,” he added, referring to the headquarters of the U.S. department of defense.

Chief Editor U Swe Win of Myanmar Now news agency also said that he can’t accept the Tatmadaw’s argument that media agencies are doing business from the military’s quotes. Reporters are obliged to report what is beneficial to the public according to the level of news value, he said.

“It is a baseless statement to attack the media. It is an unsubstantiated claim without any evidence,” he said.

The Tatmadaw spokespersons spoke for approximately 90 minutes on Friday, elaborating on their points, but they declined to answer some questions from reporters.

They said the media has exaggerated the Tatmadaw’s decision to take action against those who unfairly criticize it.

“Everyone knows what will happen when the Tatmadaw no longer exists. But there have been many activities to undermine and stop the Tatmadaw. And it is important that [the media] do not portray the Tatmadaw as a villain. We are not the villain,” said Maj-Gen Tun Tun Nyi.

The Tatmadaw has engaged more with the media as of 2018, holding regular press conferences on a monthly basis and assigning a spokesperson to answer media questions.

However, the recent prosecution of a number of members of the media shows there is still a need to build trust between the Tatmadaw and the press.

In April, the Tatmdaw sued The Irrawaddy and Radio Free Asia (RFA) under Article 66 (d) of the Telecommunications Law for their coverage of clashes between the military and the Arakan Army in the ancient town of Mrauk-U in Rakhine State.

The Tatmadaw has agreed not to follow through with the RFA lawsuit following the intervention of the Myanmar Press Council.

In the latest case, the Tatmadaw applied the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens to sue three reporters who covered a farmers protest in Kayah State’s Loikaw last week.

The Tatmadaw has filed lawsuits against filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, former military captain U Nay Myo Zin, five members of the Peacock Generation thangyat troupe under sedition charges and Article 66 (d) of Telecommunications Law. They all were denied bail and are currently detained in prisons.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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