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Government reiterates support to media reforms in Myanmar

H.E. Dr Pe Myint, Minister of Information, delivering his opening remarks. @Tin Aye/MoI

Gender inequality in media and the challenges of ethnic and community media were at the heart of discussions at the 5th Myanmar Media Development Conference held 7-8 November in Yangon. Minister of Information, U Pe Myint, who opened the Conference expressed continued commitment to the media reform process.

The exceptionally high turnout of more than 300 representatives from the media, government, military, judiciary, civil society and international press freedom organisations  was a clear illustration of the continued commitment in the media reform process in Myanmar.

Under the heading “Inclusive, independent media in a new democracy”, the annual conference was the first to be held under the new democratically elected government. All ministries were represented by their designated spokesperson and  high-ranking officers from the military were also present to engage in the debates. An interactive and participatory  hardtalk-like format paved the way for a less formal setting and a more frank discussion than that of previous years.

Ms Min Jeong Kim, Head of UNESCO Myanmar (centre), chairing the panel in the closing session of the conference.@Tin Aye/MoI

 “This meeting is an opportunity to meet across sectors, ministries and media,” U Pe Myint, Minister of Information said in his opening remarks.

“Compared to the situation in the previous 5 years, media is more accessible than ever. Yet, there are still restrictions in collecting news and information by journalists.”

Head of UNESCO in Myanmar, Ms. Min Jeong Kim, said:

“The broad representation of government representatives, media owners, human rights activists, and media practitioners, both women and men, from different ethnic backgrounds gathered at this conference to openly discuss media development, freedom of expression and access to information is a testament to how far Myanmar has come in such a short period.”

Picking up on the themes of previous years, panelists from Myanmar’s media community, government and invited international media development experts took stock of media reforms in areas such as media law, the safety of journalists and community media. The involvement of the judiciary in this year’s conference through the Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court was highly significant. Their participation allowed for  a direct dialogue with those tasked with interpreting the key legal rules supporting freedom of expression and the safeguarding of journalists’ rights. The drafting of the Right to Information Law is  also under way and designed for the benefit of the whole populace.

While women now make up the majority in the country’s media sector personnel, the majority of news sources continue to be men. Women face challenges in terms of culturally rooted stereotyping of women, conducive working conditions such as maternity leave and opportunities in private media. Even the Myanmar News Media Council only has one female member. It was generally agreed that more awareness is needed to address these stereotypes and gender imbalance. It was proposed that media could do its part  by diversifying sources and promoting role models of leading women in politics and economics.

“If large parts of society from women to minority and ethnic groups are not represented in mainstream media, they are unable to engage in and contribute to the country’s ongoing democratic process,” said Glen Swanson, IMS-Fojo Programme Manager, referring to the new report published by his organization entitled “Gender in the Myanmar Media Landscape”.

The conference was attended by more than 300 participants, including media, government, military, judiciary and civil society organizations. @Tin Aye/MoI

Reforms in the Myanmar media sector have come a long way, much remains to be done. In her closing remarks, Ms. Min Jeong Kim, Head of Office for UNESCO in Myanmar, suggested that the recently published analysis of the Myanmar media sector by UNESCO and International Media Support could inform the next steps in the country’s media reform process. For more information, visit:

www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/resources/publications-and-communication-materials/publications/full-list/assessment-of-media-development-in-myanmar/

The 5th Myanmar Media Development Conference is organised by the Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Journalist Association, Myanmar Journalist Network, Myanmar Journalist Union, Burma News International and Myanmar Journalism Institute with support from  Myanmar Ministry of Information (MoI), UNESCO, the IMS-FOJO Media Development Programme in Myanmar, Deutsche Welle Akademie, USAID, Centre for Law and Democracy, Internews, DVB, ARTICLE 19, Mizzima, and FHI 360.

For more information, contact Mr Mikel Aguirre Idiaquez, Project Officer for Communication and Information (m.aguirre-idiaquez@unesco.org) or Ms Naing Naing Aye, National Programme Officer (nn.aye@unesco.org).



10.11.2016