In an attempt to facilitate mutual trust and strengthen the dialogue between media and government, the Myanmar Press Council brought representatives from the legislative and judicial branches together with journalists in Rakhine State this week.
“In a democratic society, the public has the right to information. For instance, they should know how the government elected its administration, and how it is using the taxes paid by the public. Journalists can reveal both good and bad features of the government using this information,” U Aung Hla Tun, vice chair of the MPC, said at the June 14 meeting.
He called on the three branches of government to do more to support the necessary “fourth pillar” of democracy: media.
The three government pillars and the media still do not interact enough, not only in the states and regions, but also at the Union level, he said.
During a panel discussion, five Rakhine journalists discussed difficulties they have faced in trying to obtain information from the government. While officials from the legislative and judicial pillars engaged in the discussion, the administrative – or executive – branch, did not send officials to the meeting.
“No senior officials from the administrative pillar attended and I’m not satisfied with the responses given by the legislative and judiciary pillars,” said Yee Ywal Myint, a reporter for The Myanmar Times.
In his opening speech, Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu put much of the onus on developing the media sector on journalists, saying the country’s media outlets are still in a “crawling” phase, with more accurate and better quality coverage needed.
U Aung Hla Tun encouraged the Rakhine journalists to gain more experience, and to always adhere to journalism ethics.
Ko Aung, a journalist from the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), said the media professionals and the government representatives appeared to be at cross-purposes during the meeting.
“It was not very satisfying because we were unable to mutually connect or establish mutual respect,” he said.
Ko Moe Zaw Myint, from Development Media Group, said he was disappointed because only district and township level officials participated in the debate even though more senior, state officials attended the opening ceremony.
“The journalists face difficulties mostly at the state-level,” he said.
Around 100 people attending the meeting, which was the first MPC has held at the state level.