The interim Myanmar Press Council (MPC) has been granted an audience with President Thein Sein in the capital Nay Pyi Taw on August 1.

The press council has been pushing for a meeting to discuss the current media situation after a number of high-profile government cases against journalists and private media groups.

Despite numerous requests, the presidentially approved council was only able to meet with information minister Aung Kyi on July 21. The meeting yielded few solutions, according to those attending, and only discussed the location to build an office for the press council.

Parliamentary Speaker Thura Shwe Mann sent a message to the president on July 22 urging him to resolve the punitive actions taken against some media. On July 25, the president sent a reply outlining five points and defending the government’s policies.

President Thein Sein went on to say that Myanmar’s press freedom ranks top in all of Southeast Asia and that recent riots had been instigated by unethical reports by local and foreign media outlets.

Furthermore, he defended the sentences of four journalists and an executive of Unity Journal to ten years hard labour for violating the Official Secrets Act. According to the president, the matter was handled by the justice system, which is not under the purview of the government or the executive branch.

The plan of the MPC to meet with the president comes four days after Minister Aung Min held a secret meeting with council secretary Kyaw Min Swe and member Zaw Thet Htwe.