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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.