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State media officials issued a public apology on Thursday for mistakenly using a photo from a recent airplane crash in eastern Burma as evidence of a mine attack by Kachin rebels.
The picture, which appeared in two state periodicals including both editions of The New Light of Myanmar on Monday, was accompanied by a brief story claiming a mine planted by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had killed three passengers on a motorbike driving from Myitkyina to Putao in Kachin state.
The photo was actually taken on Christmas day after an Air Bagan flight crashed into a motorcyclist in southern Shan state. The Myanmar Times reported that the image had been “heavily cropped” to remove the crowd of onlookers around the bike.
“This occurrence is damaging to the credibility of the newspaper and signifies a failure to adhere to the code of ethics for public service media, which indicates that journalists, in every news article for the public, must verify all information at the best of their capacity to ensure accuracy before publishing,” read a statement published by the Myanmar News and Periodicals Enterprise in two Burmese periodicals today.
“Therefore, we will have great caution to prevent such occurrences in the future and would like to apologise to our readers for failing to verify our news photos.”
The correction was not published in the English edition of New Light.
Khin Maung Kyaw Din, chief editor at state paper Kyemon, blamed the mistake on a lack of resources and pressing deadlines.
“We pay attention to our readers, but at times we have limitations with our human resources and time. We would like to extend an apology to our readers and acknowledge that we will work hard to prevent this in the future” said Khin Maung Kyaw Din.
“In the past, we had little freedom over handling the news, but now we have more. And we have to work to bring accurate news to the public.”
The publication of the misleading picture coincided with a military statement that decried “erroneous” coverage of the war in Kachin state by international news outlets.
“Some internal and external organizations, embassies and media issued fabricated news as to armed conflicts in Kachin State that cause misunderstanding of people over the government and the Tatmadaw,” read the statement published on the military-backed Myawady News website on Tuesday.
But Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut defended the article about the mine blast, despite the misleading photograph.
“We obtained information about the bomb blast from our source but the photos didn’t arrive until later the evening. All three newspapers had used the photo and after [learning about the mistake], the news provider was reached and he explained that he sent the photo by mistake,” wrote Yet Htut in a note published on his Facebook page.
“The newspapers’ editors have been instructed to thoroughly verify photos and information concerning the war, accidents and natural disasters, and not to use the materials at all if [it] cannot be verified.”
The government spokesperson went on to warn news providers that they would not be hired in the future if such mistakes continue.
State publications have made strident improvements since the country’s quasi-civilian government took power almost two years ago. The periodicals, while woefully lacking in reliable or in-depth stories, now often break government announcements that would have been unheard of under military rule.
-Shwe Aung contributed reporting.