Myanmar Draft Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law to be revised
The Draft Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law of Myanmar is up for revisions. This consensus emerged after a forum on the draft law was convened by UNESCO upon the request of the Ministry of Information (MoI).
The draft bill was earlier submitted by the MoI to the Parliament, but the latter suspended discussions on the bill after receiving complaints from various local media groups, international media NGOs and development partners. The bill was described as restrictive and threatening the emerging press freedom in the country.
During the roundtable discussion held on 3 April, Deputy Minister for Information, U Ye Htut, announced that the MoI shall submit proposed revisions to the Bills Committee of the Parliament. These revisions shall include highlighting adherence to freedom of expression as the overriding vision and intent of the law. Article 27 of the draft, which reads, “Actions taken by this shall not injure the right of citizen, the freedom of expression,” shall be transposed to the initial portion of the bill.
Provisions such as those described by critics as “vague”, which can therefore lead to government-imposed or self-censorship, shall be deleted. The provision on Invalid Publications shall also be submitted to the Bills Committee for deletion. Other provisions such as those related to prohibited contents shall be rewritten to make them more specific and consistent with international legal standards.
The MoI also emphasized that determining the existence of violations of provisions of the proposed law shall now be made by the courts rather than the registration officer as in the original draft bill.
The forum was attended by four members of the Parliament who are also part of the Bills Committee. They expressed support for many of the agreements arrived at during the forum.
Deputy Minister U Ye Htut also agreed with the recommendation of the forum participants to work on either amendment or crafting of new laws on obscenity, defamation and hate speech. He noted that the provisions of these new (or amended) laws will be useful as well for the other media-related laws being prepared, such as the Press Law, the Broadcasting Law, the Public Service Media Law, and the Film Law. UNESCO is providing technical assistance in the crafting of these four proposed laws.
The participants acknowledged that the forum has made the process of lawmaking more inclusive and transparent. They expressed hope that a similar inclusive and transparent process would be adopted by the government in the finalization of other pending media laws.
In addition to MoI officials and legislators, forum participants represented Myanmar mass media, international media organisations and media NGOs, foreign missions, and media development partners.
The forum was co-organised by the Media Development Thematic Working Group (MDTWG), which is co-chaired by the MoI and UNESCO with about 25 national and international media development organisations as members. The MDTWG serves as the coordinative body for media development initiatives in Myanmar.
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