(Editorial) - Ye Htut, the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information said that differences in the ‘Media Law’ and ‘Printing and Publishing Law’ lie in the opposition between wants and fear, at a recent meeting in Naypyitaw.
What he meant was that the desire many people have for freedom of speech and expression, and how it conflicts with the government's fear of absolute media freedom.
On the one hand, the government's fear that freedom of media might lead to complete disorder and that it will be used by the people as a channel to air their grievances is valid. But on the other hand, controlling the media will lead to the loss of freedom of speech and expression. The people will have no means to bring the government's attention to their daily hardships or grievances and aspirations.
In the past five decades, people had no right to freedom of speech and expression. They could not go anywhere to lodge complaints of their grievances. In other words, they had to submit to oppression. If they had freedom of expression in the past, the condition of the country would not have deteriorated to its present state. Thus, media freedom is in the interest of the people. But the government still looks at media freedom with suspicion; perhaps due to irresponsible media reporting of unverified facts and factual errors in the past. This might lead the government to prevent irresponsible reporting by controlling the media as before.
The first victim of such restriction and media control will be the people and the nation. One cannot deny the probability of the government's fear becoming a reality. But media control on these grounds, will lead to deprivation of the right to information, knowledge, opinions, analyses and rational logic from responsible citizens of the country.
Moreover, the government should grant its people benefit of doubt. Our country has more than enough statues and laws to protect the country from chaos that the government is apprehensive about.
It is also important to point out here that the media persons also have a responsibility to the nation. They have to abide by media ethics and code of conduct. The government should rather encourage the media persons and journalists to be professional and practice responsible journalism.
The cases beyond the scope of media ethics and code of conduct should be dealt with the existing statutes and laws. The government need not be overcautious and despair about violence or grievances arising out of the cases beyond the scope of media ethics. Sometimes the government may also confuse public good with individual interest, so they should ensure that the two are demarcated and dealt with separately.
Hence, Mizzima urges the government to encourage journalists to abide by media ethics and code of conduct, and champion the freedom of responsible media.