Voice of America to Open Burma Office

By Yan Naing Hein 7 June 2012

Burmese service of Voice of America (VOA) has agreed to open an office in Burma in the near future and share programs with state-run broadcasters.

Broadcast media like VOA as well as Burmese media groups in exile will be allowed to open Burmese bureaus after a new media law is approved next month, said Information Minister Kyaw Hsan when he met David Ensor, the director of the VOA (Burmese service).

Kyaw Hsan emphasized that opening offices will not be possible immediately because the media law has yet to be approved, but it should be enacted by July or August at the latest, Ensor told a VOA broadcast on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Information and VOA signed an agreement so that journalists working for VOA would be allowed multi-entry visas to come and go from Burma with ease.

Journalists working for broadcast media like VOA and exiled media groups are only currently eligible for a single entry five-day visa.

“The minister has guaranteed that he will make sure for journalists to get multi-entry visas with the recommendation of the Ministry of Information,” added Ensor.

The ministry also agreed to rebroadcast some VOA Burmese-language programs through the state-owned Myanmar Radio and Television, better known as MRTV, reported the VOA.

Kyaw Hsan and Ensor signed a memorandum of understanding for VOA to provide assistance including modern equipment and training for MRTV employees to improve their technical skills, Xinhua news agency reported.

Such unprecedented cooperation between the Ministry of Information and VOA has surprised onlookers—the VOA was previously dubbed “skyful of lies” by Burma’s state-run media under the former military junta.

Since the Burmese government stepped up its program of relaxing control on the media sector previously banned exiled organizations including Democratic Voice of Burma, Mizzima and The Irrawaddy have taken steps towards opening an office inside the country.

Kyaw Zwa Moe, the editor (English edition) for Irrawaddy Publishing Group, said “Discussions with officials to open an office and run the publication in Myanmar are ongoing—we are still waiting for the green light.”