UNESCO media conference sets foundation for media development in Myanmar
Myanmar’s Minister of Information and Culture stressed the importance of new media laws, journalists’ morality and ethics, and capacity building trainings at a recent UNESCO conference on media development in Yangon, Myanmar.
Union Minister U Kyaw Hsan said: “President U Thein Sein in his address to the Union Government on 31 March 2011 made it clear that new laws and rules should not be an obstacle to the fundamental rights of citizens; instead, they should serve as mechanisms for correctly exercising the fundamental rights of citizens without harming the interest of the state and society. We are not drafting the new media law with the intention of banning or hampering press freedom. Our aim is to facilitate the proper use of press freedom for the long-term progress of Myanmar’s media sector.”
The Minister acknowledged that many challenges are ahead of Myanmar and recognized the importance of sharing experiences and lessons learned from the international community to facilitate media reforms.
This first UNESCO conference on media development in Myanmar was attended by approximately 180 participants from Embassies, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society and donors, as well as by local and international journalists and media trainers. Its aim was to provide a platform for media support organizations to discuss media development in Myanmar and share best practices.
The Deputy Director of UNESCO’s Asia Pacific Regional Bureau for Education Etienne Clement said: “The media have a responsibility to facilitate two-way communications between the government and the people. They inform the people of various policies, plans, decisions and actions of the government. They also provide a platform for people to air their opinions, discuss their needs and speak up against wrongdoings - thereby contributing to good governance. However, in so doing, the media must carry out their duties ethically.”
The two-day conference was divided into six sessions structured around the UNESCO Media Development Indicators. About 20 renowned journalists from Myanmar and overseas were invited to speak.
Kavi Chongkittavorn, Chairman of Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) from Thailand said: “For media to contribute to democracy in an ASEAN and global context, they must be independent, the media ownership must be transparent and a clear code of conduct must exist. The media must be an independent source of information for citizens, a platform to communicate and fulfill a watchdog function – as stated in UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators.”
The six sessions of the conference included:
- Media as a Platform for Democratic Discourse;
- Media Legislation and Regulation;
- Media Pluralism and Business Sustainability;
- Professionalism and Capacity Building;
- Media Associations and Collective Responsibilities; and
- Media and Peace Building – Role of Media in Peace Negotiations.
While reporting on the current project of revising the country’s media laws, U Ye Htut, Director-General of the Information and Public Relations Department at the Ministry of Information, summarized the Government’s two-track strategy: preparing a new print media law and providing gradual relaxation in order to prepare for a new media environment. U Ye Htut also identified the main challenges, which consist in lack of experience, lack of professional standards in journalism in Myanmar, limited access to local media, and need to imbue press, publishers and editors with a concept of self-responsibility.
Dr Murray Green, Director of ABC International from Australia, said: “The media is not just a business, it has public interest responsibilities. Part of that public interest is to reflect the diversity of a nation. Diversity can be reflected in the way in which the ownership and the control of the media are regulated to ensure that there is a plurality of voices and interests.”
The two-day conference ended with a concluding session during which the Director General of the Ministry of Information U Ye Htut thanked participants, speakers and organizers, and stated that the Ministry of Information has benefited and learned much from the conference’s presentations and discussions.
The event was co-organized by Myanmar’s Ministry of Information and UNESCO in partnership with the International Media Support and Canal France International.
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