Whether you call the nation Burma or Myanmar, the situation is the same for its journalists: confusing and frustrating.
News media have experienced almost everything possible since a military junta took over in September 1988. Now they are involved in a political tug of war with the government as they fight for full and unconditional freedom of the press.
You may recall that the new president, Thein Sein, told parliament to “respect the role of the media” soon after taking the oath of office on March 30, 2011. At the time, he seemed to be calling for the removal of most government controls on the media and granting greater responsibility to journalists.
The issue has gone back and forth numerous times. Read the excerpts below and you’ll see what has transpired since January, when journalists were optimistic about their future.
JAN. 31 FROM AIDNEWS: “More than 100 journalists attending a conference titled ‘Development of Media in Democratic Myanmar’ will offer suggestions to the Burmese government on press freedom. … Mizzima editor Sein Win, a participant at the two-day workshop held at the Rangoon Inle Lake Hotel, said, ‘Media leaders at home and abroad will offer recommendations to the government on media and press laws, what should be included and what should not be included.’”
JUNE 19 FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “These are heady days in Myanmar’s newsrooms. … Reporters and editors are suddenly enjoying remarkable press freedom, as the country’s new, nominally civilian government launches a rapid succession of reforms, but they also fear they may be inadequately prepared as they enter uncharted, potentially hazardous territory.”
JULY 24 FROM SHAN HERALD: “Deputy Chief Attorney- General U Tun Tun Oo told the fourth regular session of the First Pyithu Hluttaw (lower house of the legislature) that the print media bill drafted by the Ministry of Information had been sent back to the ministry by the Attorney-General’s Office after a thorough examination, and arrangements were being made to explain the bill to journalist organizations.”
JULY 31 FROM HUFFINGTON POST: “Myanmar’s censors have suspended two weekly magazines indefinitely in the latest confrontation between the government and the newly aggressive press. The Press Scrutiny Board informed Voice Weekly and Envoy editors Tuesday that their publications have been suspended for violating regulations. The authorities did not explain the reasons for the bans.”
AUG. 4 FROM AL-JAZEERA: “Dozens of journalists have marched in Myanmar’s main city to protest against the suspension of two journals amid fears that the authorities could resort to censorship laws used by the militaryled regime. … The reporters, many wearing black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘Stop Killing [the] Press’ in Burmese and English marched to several sites across Yangon on Saturday.”
AUG. 6 FROM ASIAN TRIBUNE: “On Monday, some most important news journals — such as The Messenger, The Nation and so forth — in Burma blackened their cover pages as a sign of protest in order to show the current rising discontentment with long-lasting limits on the Freedom of Press.”
AUG. 7 FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “Myanmar’s media censors agreed to lift suspensions on two weekly magazines, editors said Tuesday, after journalists staged a rare protest to demand more press freedom. The Press Scrutiny Board summoned editors from The Voice Weekly and Envoy magazines on Monday and informed them they could resume publishing on Aug. 18.”
AUG. 10 FROM JAGRAN POST: “Myanmar has formed a 20-member Core Press Council aimed at protecting journalists, laying down professional ethics and settling media disputes. It has been formed during the period before parliament prescribes a media law, according to a government announcement. … The council is tasked to safeguard freedom of press under law, to settle disputes and complaints from inside and outside the media.”
AUG. 14 FROM ASIA NEWS NETWORK: “The government’s formation of the Myanmar Core Press Council (MCPC), which was announced on Friday, provoked criticism from journalists who claimed its formation without approval from local media can lead to complications and cannot safeguard freedom of press.”
AUG. 17 FROM IRRAWADDY: “Journalists in Burma say they plan to protest in front of Rangoon’s City Hall next week to express their growing frustration with the government’s failure to follow through on promises to introduce meaningful media reforms.”
This could very well be the story of the year if journalists are successful.
Tagged under: Global Journalism