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23 Mar, 2012

UNESCO Training Course To Help Myanmar Draft New Media Laws


Yangon, (UNESCO Media release) – Myanmar’s Ministry of Information in co-operation with UNESCO recently organized a review workshop on the country’s first draft media laws in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw.

“Myanmar is now transforming to a democratic society,” said U Ye Htut, Director General of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, Ministry of Information of Myanmar at the workshop. “Under these circumstances media policy is a vital issue and the concerned personnel is approaching this in a positive way. According to some extent of experience, the process of drafting the new media legislation is a hard and intricate work. But according to the constitution, this is a compulsory matter for new governance,” he said.

This first of its kind workshop started off with two-day discussions on the press, publishing and printing draft laws at the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division in Yangon. A broadcast draft law was then discussed in Nay Pyi Taw at the Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) premises.

New draft media laws were prepared by the Ministry of Information and reviewed at this five-day workshop. The Ministry of Information has requested UNESCO’s technical assistance in media development including capacity building in developing media laws based on good international and regional practices and accepted by all the stakeholders.

For the press and print session the drafting team also included consultants from private publishing and academia.

During the review of the drafts and following open discussions, the focus was set on respecting international standards and the regime of freedom of expression laid down in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

“As latecomer, Myanmar has the advantage to learn from the mistakes many countries have committed in the field of media law and media development,” said Bambang Harymurti, Indonesian media expert and UNESCO workshop facilitator.

Various country experiences and lessons learned from ASEAN and Europe enriched the exchange of ideas and paved the way to a common understanding of a modern democratic media law.

“The principle of freedom should be the basis, this freedom comes with responsibilities, restrictions to freedom are possible but need a clear definition, any abuse should only be sanctioned a posteriori,” said Roland Husson, French media expert and UNESCO workshop facilitator.

Main elements of the new law would be the establishment of independent Press Council and a Broadcast Council, no a priori censorship, the adherence to principles of freedom of expression and the right to information, and a framework for new online media.

“Media gives a voice to change and development. Media Law is the backbone for media development. It should not obstruct but be flexible to support all movements of society so it can develop to its full potential,” said Dieter Schlenker of Information and Knowledge Management, UNESCO Bangkok.

Closing the workshop, Director General U Ye Htut considered this first ever workshop with international experts as very significant achievement. Expecting the media law to be soon finalized, he identified further needs in collaboration, particularly by enhancing media literacy amongst the people of Myanmar, in providing capacity development opportunities for journalists and in developing modern curricula for journalistic education in the country.

All the presentations from the workshop are available here.