Mon 30 Jan 2012
Filed under: Interviews
The Chiang Mai-based managing editor of Mizzima News Agency, U Sein Win, on the prospect of daily papers and his organisation’s plans to return to MyanmarDid you ever expect you would be given a visa to work legally in Myanmar?
I’ve wanted to come to Myanmar for a long time. This is the first time I’ve been here since Mizzima was founded in 1998. I came to cover the visit of British Foreign Secretary [William Hague] and I got a single-entry, one-week visa.
Now the space for media is wider and freer. We worked as a foreign news agency before because there was only a narrow space for media inside the country. So I’m here to study the possibility of setting up a news agency inside the country.
Who have you met on your visit?
I haven’t had the opportunity to meet with government ministers, but I’ve met people from the political and media communities. I also met U Tint Swe from Press Scrunity and Registration Division and some diplomats.
Many journalists from abroad have been able to visit Myanmar and some are looking to establish a permanent base inside the country. What is your plan for Mizzima?
I’d like [Mizzima] to set up here in the area that the government allows. We need to build confidence first and inside the country is a new place for us so we can’t start immediately but I think we can do media-related tasks for the media community.
I think all [exile media organisations] are interested to settle in Myanmar. So, all agencies may come and settle in Myanmar at the same time. But the whole agency cannot settle in Myanmar. I think, just a branch office can be established.
There are many rumours that Mizzima wants to publish a journal in Myanmar. Did you raise the issue with U Tint Swe?
Well I think it’s possible. I can’t say when it will start but we could start it quickly if the government allowed us.
We discussed both local and international issues. I learned that there is now a degree of transparency … Myanmar is becoming a more transparent society.
U Tint Swe wants [exile] media to come to Myanmar. After I contacted him he agreed to meet me and talked frankly. I believe [the government] would like to accept [exile] media.
How will you compete against media groups inside the country?
The local media scene is large and vibrant. They have a large network and both their financial and human resources are large. It would be hard to compete with them. What we do will depend on our resources. Each journal has its own identity.
The government is preparing a new media law. What changes are you expecting after it is promulgated?
If the press law is passed I think we will see the dissolving of the censorship board and journalists will be more responsible for their work. The government said it wants to work for the benefit of journalists but it hesitates to remove the censorship system while changing to the new system.
When will daily newspapers be published?
If the press law is passed, daily newspapers must be allowed. U Tint Swe also said that the state needs daily [private] newspapers. It shouldn’t take too long, maybe this year.
Are local media groups ready to publish daily newspapers?
Well, there will be challenges in terms of human resources, I think. If they become dailies, they will need hundreds of staff and they will have to invest billions of kyats. Only large media groups will be able to afford to publish a daily newspaper. I think The Myanmar Times, Weekly Eleven, The Voice and 7-Day News are ready.
– Translated by Thiri Min Htun