Myanmar (Interim) Press Council Secretary Kyaw Min Swe has confirmed that the Press and Publishing draft law was approved by the Lower House—and that the Press Council Members will resign if the Draft Law is officially approved.
The Press Council will appeal to the Upper House and Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw (the bicameral assembly) not to approve the law, since it was drawn up without the input of journalists. If this tactic is unsuccessful, however, the council members say they will resign.
“The draft Press Law would increase media oppression,” said Thiha Saw, a member of the Press Council.
“The media isn’t the fourth pillar if it is under the Legislature, an authoritarian government, and the judiciary. If this law is passed, the fourth pillar of a free media won’t ever happen. That’s why I’m here to complain,” he explained.
The Ministry of Information and members of the Press Council met three times to discuss the Media Draft Law, as the journalists objected to some parts of the Draft Law when it was first publicized.
Kyaw Min Swe said the Minister Aung Kyi let the journalists amend the Draft Law, and also promised that anything the journalists objected to would not be included in the final version of the law.
Kyaw Min Swe explained, however, that most of the journalists' amendments were not included when the Draft Law was submitted to the Lower House for approval.
“The decision from the Lower House will be the final decision,” said Vice-Information Minister Ye Htut. “Some parts of the Ministry of Information’s submission were included in the draft law, and some were not. The same goes for the submission by Press Council. This is usual in legislation, and it is the procedure by which the Hluttaw acts, in accordance with democratic norms.”
The MPs amended 24 points in the Press and Publishing Draft Law after it was submitted to the Lower House by the Ministry of Information. But some journalists say that “even the amended points by the MPs from the Lower House still include points which would probably endanger journalists' rights and the public's media freedom.”
The Press Council was formed in September 2012. The organization wrote a template for the “Press Media and Publishing Draft Law” in the hopes that their suggestion would be adopted by the government.
Retired Judge U Khin Maung Aye is the chairman of the Council, which is composed of journalists and people from social organizations throughout the country.
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