2014 Conference results and action points

Conference results and action points

At the 3rd conference on media development in Yangon from 18 - 19 September in Yangon a list of key points covering the status and was forward of the medie-related areas debated over nine sessions. These were presented in the closing session by Minister of Information U Ye Htut and U ThihaSaw, Chair of the Myanmar Journalist Institute. 

Please find a summary of the key points below. A fuller summary of the conference will be available shortly.


SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS


SESSION 1 – ETHICAL JOURNALISM AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE MEDIA

STATUS

  • Many journalists currently lack awareness and training in ethical journalism and adherence to a code of conduct.
  • Senior and middle-level media staff may not have received training in journalism ethics.
  • Salaries for many rank-and-file journalists remain low leading to payments of journalists under the table to write certain stories.

WAY FORWARD

  • Now is the time with the elections coming up, for the media to build trust.
  • Call for the government and politicians to be more open with information, to avoid journalists seeking information from untrustworthy or third-hand sources.
  • Increased efforts should be made to link with other media in the region to lift the quality of journalism.

SESSION 2 – REFORMING, REGULATING THE BROADCAST SECTOR AND PUBLIC SECTOR BROADCASTING

STATUS

  • The Myanmar government has taken the need for media reform seriously, but there is still occasional interference of politicians.
  • Media reforms have resulted in shifts to transform from state TV to public service broadcasting - from a government mouthpiece to a voice of the public.

WAY FORWARD

  • Some suggestions on the two Media Laws (Members of Parliament to take note)
  • In the broadcast reform process, challenges should be addressed and resistance be recognised.
  • Forum on broadcast regulation.

SESSION 3 – COMMUNITY RADIO AND ETHNIC VOICES

STATUS

  • Local communities have grown over the last decade, providing community-centric content.
  • Challenges include the difficulty of applying for a broadcasting license, funding, a skills deficit, and the geographical difficulties.

WAY FORWARD

  • Opportunity to open up to more stations, particularly in ethnic areas.
  • Attention needed on funding, training, and easing problems associated with geographical challenges.
  • Training for radio journalists.
  • Standards for community radio 

    SESSION 4 – ELECTION REPORTING

STATUS

  • Rules and regulations of the elections were not available to the public in 2010 and 2012. Efforts now being made with international organisations to disseminate information to the public.
  • Journalists covering the 2015 elections will lack experience of covering open elections, given 1960 was the last free and fair election in Myanmar.
  • Is there a need for a specific journalism code of conduct for covering elections?


WAY FORWARD

  • Training is needed, possibly with the help of foreign media or development partners.
  • The Union Elections Commission must be transparent and communicate more effectively with the media, in conjunction with local and international election observers.
  • Good media relations must be built between the journalist community and the Union Elections Commission.

SESSION 5 – THE PRESS COUNCIL AND THE COMPLAINTS MECHANISM

STATUS

  • Early days for the Myanmar Press Council’s Complaints Committee with a limited number of complaints dealt with (82).
  • News Media Law by-laws are being drafted now and under review.
  • Concern over journalists failing to respect the Myanmar Press Council.

WAY FORWARD

  • There is a need for amicable solutions to disputes.
  • Complaints mechanism should become more useful for the media environment.
  • Reporters need resources and support, both in terms of understanding correct practices, and if facing challenges over their stories.
  • Media-literate public needed through education and the Ministry of Information.

SESSION 6 – MANAGING A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL IN THE MEDIA SECTOR

STATUS

  • Myanmar has a highly competitive media publication market with a limited or declining advertising pool, and a poor delivery system.
  • This is not a level playing field, with the private media receiving limited access to the advertising pie.
  • News media companies face a challenge in reaching out to the younger generation.

WAY FORWARD

  • While preserving print media, focus heavily on expanding digital platforms as a sustainable way forward.
  • Young people use mobile phones to access news, reflecting an opportunity for publishers.
  • There is a need to address the taxation system, given the media offers a “public good.”

SESSION 7:  THE MEDIA, PEACE BUILDING AND CIVIL SOCIETY

STATUS

  • On-going efforts are being made to train and enhance journalists’ understanding of peace and conflict issues.
  • Many people in the ethnic areas do not know about or understand the ceasefire negotiations, hence a need for media organizations to help inform them.
  • Rural people are still unable to access media effectively, and often find it is hard to get their voice heard.
  • Negotiations are taking place in public/media with a negative impact.

WAY FORWARD

  • More needs to be done to help journalists understand the complexity of the conflicts and peace efforts.
  • While media coverage of peace and conflict issues should be encouraged, care has to be taken that more reporting does not lead to more conflict. 
  • More needs to be done to improve communications for the media when working in a multi-language environment.
  • Should a media strategy be developed on the role of media in conflict and be agreed on by all stakeholders in the conflict?

SESSION 8: BEYOND MEDIA LAWS – OTHER LEGAL THREATS TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

STATUS

  • There is some confusion and uncertainty over laws that might put journalists at risk merely for doing their job.
  • Journalists and editors tend to self-censor due to fears that they could overstep the mark, action that could lead to criminal or civil charges and prosecution.
  • Freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy but uncertainty surrounds a miss-match of laws which could impinge on citizens’ rights.

WAY FORWARD

  • More effort needs to be made to help the media understand existing laws that might effect the media freedoms.
  • Many laws that effect freedom of expression and the ability of the media to do their job need to be examined, highlighting legislation that might need to be changed.

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