Ministry pledges to work with press council to address contentious media law

Ministry pledges to work with press council to address contentious media law

After holding talks with representatives from Burma’s interim press council on Monday, Information Minister Aung Kyi said government officials were committed to addressing disputed articles in a controversial media draft bill that was largely panned by the country’s transitional press advisory board late last month.

Officials from the ministry of information (MOI) led by Aung Kyi met with the press council’s representatives at the Park Royal Hotel in Rangoon to discuss disagreements surrounding the media bill, after the two sides held a round of talks that were described as fruitless in July.

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“During the meeting, Union Minister U Aung Kyi discussed vision [sic] of establishing Myanmar media environment to become social responsibility media landscape in Myanmar. The Myanmar Press Council (Temporary) agreed to continue the discussion,” read a press statement published in Tuesday’s English edition of The New Light of Myanmar.

At a press conference following the talks, the minister told journalists that the MOI was dedicated to negotiating with the press council directly in order to forge a solution.

“We both have different opinions but this is substantial for a good outcome and the development of fine, valuable ideas. At the beginning of the democratic era, we should be appreciative of diversity and negotiate over disagreements,” said Aung Kyi.

Veteran journalist and the press council’s vice-chair Pho Thauk Kyar said the government should now focus on carving out a timeframe for the proposed negotiations.

“We urged them to implement the negotiations within one month regarding the 17 articles in the bill objected by the ministry,” said Pho Thauk Kyar in reference to the 17 provisions the council suggested making to the draft that were ultimately struck down by the MOI.

“This is not an issue we can find a solution to by just holding one meeting so we need to have more informal talks.”

Monday’s meeting comes amid rising tension between the interim press council and government officials. In July, Burma’s lower house of parliament approved a controversial draft of the printing and publishing enterprise law, despite vocal protests from members of the council.

According to the council’s representatives, the draft contains provisions that would prevent media outlets from publishing statements that are “against and violate the provisions of the constitution and other legislation” and would also provide “registration officials” with the authority to enforce printing and publishing regulations and deem publications “illegal”.

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