Burma’s Information Ministry has announced plans to transform the state-run media sector into public service media (PSM) outlets starting next year.
Information Minister Aung Kyi and Deputy Minister Ye Htut told members of the Lower House’s Sports, Culture and Public Relation Development Committee in Naypyidaw on Wednesday that the country’s Burmese language state newspapers Myanmar Ahlin and Kyemon would be transformed into Public Service Media ventures by August 2013.
Aung Kyi also said that the government’s English language mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, is set to become a joint venture.
The minister said state-owned Myanmar Television and Myanmar Radio are set to become PSM outlets in 2014. Aung Kyi told the MPs that it was necessary to reform state media propaganda outlets into public service ventures.
On Friday, the New Light of Myanmar printed the code of ethnics that will be followed by the PSM sector, which included regulations barring the media from instigating racial or religious hatred.
Ye Htun, a member of the Sports, Culture and Public Relation Development Committee, said the country’s PSM sector will focus on issues that are not often covered by private media groups.
“The minister said the PSM will provide beneficial information to the public from sectors including education, health and ethnic cultures,” said Ye Htun.
“He said the PSM will not profit from these [enterprises] and discussed possibilities for the state to enact laws that would allocate tax money for their budgets.”
However, Ye Htun said the government is unlikely to pass sweeping legislation that would completely transform the country’s state run media sector before general elections in 2015.
“I don’t think there will be much change until 2015 apart from presentation. Even if the information minister and the deputy minister are very fair minded, the ruling president would want to have control over certain issues that can potentially harm his party and his [reform] process,” said Ye Htun.
“Since the country has just changed from a dictatorship not too long ago, there are still many fresh wounds and the government might not like the media highlighting those.”
The minister said in a meeting with the Upper and the Lower houses’ representatives that the Media Law is still being drafted.
After years of printing draconian propaganda aimed at defaming democracy activists and western powers, the state media is in the process of shedding its old image and beginning to embrace more contemporary approaches to the news.
State run outlets still serve as mouthpieces and present the government’s line, but they now print in colour and publish several reports daily about celebrity gossip.