Thu 10 Jan 2013
Filed under: Inside Burma,Media,News
The new Myanmar Press Council is to negotiate between the government and two journals, The Voice and Snapshot Journal, for the withdrawal of government lawsuits against the publications. The Ministry of Mining and the Rangoon Division government lodged formal complaints against the journals last year. Khin Maung Aye, Chairman of Myanmar Press Council said the council was responding to the requests of the two member media organizations to help resolve the complaints by the government bodies.
“They ask for help. The Press Council made a request to the government. Whether lawsuits will be withdrawn or not is up to authorities. We are trying to negotiate,” Press Council Chairman Khin Maung Aye said.
The Voice Weekly had quoted a report from the auditor general’s office to the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee last year that found that several ministries, including the Mining Ministry, had been involved in misuse of state funds illegal transactions.
After the allegations were reported it was sued by Ministry of Mine at Rangoon’s Dagon Township Court.
Snapshot journal published a photo of the body of an ethnic Arakanese girl—with face blurred out—who was raped and murdered by three Muslim men. The photo came out in 2012 as violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities erupted in Arakan State.
Rangoon Division Government subsequently accused Snap Short journal with the criminal charges of publishing material that allegedly could induce the public to commit acts of public mischief.
So far, Ministry of Mining has started negotiation with The Voice, but Snapshot Journal has not been contacted by Rangoon Division and the Press Council is now trying to set up negotiations.
Thiha Saw, a journalist and member of Press Council, said that if negotiation attempts by the Press Council were successful it would confirm to Burma’s media that it could offer a degree of protection and representation of media rights.
“The Press Council is doing many things for media freedom. Negotiation for publications is one of our tasks. If negotiation is successful, press council will get trust and respect from journalists,” he said.
The new 27-member press council, headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Khin Maung Aye, was formed on Sept.17 last year in Rangoon following two weeks of discussions between journalists’ groups and the Ministry of Information. About two-thirds of the council’s members are journalists.
Burmese media have only recently begun to enjoy increased media freedoms as censorship was lifted early last year. President Thein Sein’s reformist government replaced the previous Minister of Information with a more progressive successor.
In April, daily newspapers will be allowed in Burma for the first time in decades. Yet questions remain over how much freedom the Burmese media will gain in the long term.