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Ministry of information, press council lock horns over draft bill

Wednesday’s meeting between Burma’s interim press council and the Ministry of Information (MOI) in Naypyidaw has been deemed “fruitless” by participants as the two sides continue to argue over the contents of a new draft media law.

Tensions arose ahead of the talks after the ministry struck down 17 of the suggested articles presented in the council’s draft on 9 July.

Ye Htun, a member of the lower house who helped mediate Wednesday’s meeting, said the negotiations failed due to a lack of trust between the two sides.

“Based on the discussion in the meeting, the level of mutual-trust between the two parties is seemingly low. They were just going back and forth against each other,” said Ye Htun.

“Without mutual-trust, the negotiations won’t work out.”

According to the Voice Weekly’s chief editor and press council secretary Kyaw Min Swe, the council took issue with the ministry’s call to make several press bodies to oversee the activities of Burma’s media sector.

“The [MoI] told us to amend 17 articles in the bill, including the one that states that the press council would be the only press body in the country. They want a lot of councils and we wouldn’t accept that. Also, one of the articles said council members should be regarded as civil servants – we consulted with legal experts to include this in the bill and the [MoI] want that changed too,” said Kyaw Min Swe.

“And they want to change the word ‘Electronic Media’ to ‘Internet Media’ and we told them we cannot change that either. We rejected their demand to change the articles as we have a concern that it might bring back restrictions against media freedom.”

However, the editor added that the interim council would ultimately accept the parliament’s decision.

The news comes amid rising tension between the interim press council and government officials.

Earlier this month, 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 who claimed the bill contains measures that would hinder the fourth estate.


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