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Union Information Minister Pe Myint at the opening of the 5th Conference on Myanmar Media Development in Naypyidaw on Monday urged the media to use caution when reporting sensitive news.
The minister stressed the importance of fact-checking and verifying news sources to avoid misunderstandings when covering race and religious issues.
Although he made no reference to the ongoing military lockdown in northern Arakan State in the wake of attacks on border police one month ago, his remarks come amid growing concern over a backlash against reports of abuses targeting Rohingya Muslims living in the region.
Last week, a journalist working for the privately owned Myanmar Times lost her job for reporting on the alleged rape of Rohingya women — days after the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar accused “local and foreign media [of] working hand in glove with the perpetrators” of the 9 October attacks.
Pe Myint, who visited the area less than a week after the attacks, stressed the need for journalists to get their facts straight before reporting on allegations.
“There can be challenges in verifying information in areas where conflicts take place, but reporters with their sense of duty to inform the public feel that they need to present every piece of information they manage to get,” said the minister at the opening of the conference.
“We would like them to verify their news sources as much as possible,” he said.
While acknowledging that timely reporting is a priority of the press, Pe Myint urged the media to strictly follow journalistic ethics and avoid mixing facts and opinions in the reports to create a free, accountable and responsible media environment.
“Baseless reports can create misunderstanding — we have seen reports that included opinions, assumptions and comments,” he said.
The two-day conference, titled “Inclusive Independent Media in a New Democracy”, concludes today.