Burma or Myanmar Government released its Notification No. 61/2012 on 9 August 2012 stating the ‘Formation of Myanmar Core Press Council’ (MCPC) which consists of 20 members, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said Friday. The council’s key tasks are to protect media officials, to take responsibility for the compilation of journalistic code of ethics and to settle press disputes in accordance with rules and regulations laid out under Sub-Section (A) of Section-354 of the Constitution.

It also states that, before the emergence of Press Media Laws, members of the media will be permitted to freely express and publish their convictions and opinions, so long as they are not contrary to the law. The Press Media Laws will be approved by the Union Parliament in due course.

According to the state-run media, the Myanmar Core Press Council has been formed with the following persons:

  1. U Khin Maung Aye (Retd Supreme Courte Judge) Chiarman
  2. Dr Aung Tun Thet (Retd Principal) Vice -Chairman-1,United Nations System Staff College
  3. Dr Khin Aye (Maung Khin Min-Danubyu) Vice -Chairman-2,(Retd Myanmarsar Professor)
  4. Dr Myo Thant Tin (Literati) Member
  5. Dr Tin Hlaing (Boe Hlaing) (Literati) Member
  6. U Khin Maung Lay (Pho Thaukkya) Member
  7. U Soe Thein (Maung Wuntha) Member
  8. U Thiha Saw (Thiha Saw) Member
  9. U Aung Hla Tun (Reuters) Member
  10. U Tin Hlaing (Ledwintha Saw Chit) Mmeber
  11. U Khin Maung Tun (Khin Maung Tun-Lanmadaw) Member
  12. U Ohn Maung (Myinmu Maung Naing Moe) Member
  13. Daw Cho Cho Tin (Ma Sanda) Member
  14. Dr Tin Tun Oo Member
  15. Dr Tha Tun Oo (Today Media) Member
  16. U Myint Maung Member
  17. U Maung Maung Myint Aye Member
  18. U Ko Ko (Ko Ko-Setmu Tekkatho) Secretary
  19. U Maung Maung Oo (Hein Latt) Joint Secretary-1
  20. Dr Kyaw Zaw Naing (Copy Rights Lawyer) Joint Secretary-2
Burmese press law

Pic: AP.

The statement also expresses the duties and responsibilities of members of the core press council. They are to safeguard freedom of the press in accordance with the law; to supervise the expressions of members of the press such that their expressions are not detrimental to the interest of the people, the dignity of the state and national sovereignty; to settle disputes and complaints among members of the press as well as with those from outside the industry in line with established rules, regulations and codes of conduct; to act as a liaison between the people, the government and the press; to compile and prescribe the a code of ethics for members of the press; to train and educate members of the press so that they employ the best journalistic practices; to try to improve capacity and standards of members of the press; to scrutinize imported periodicals and publications to confirm that they are in conformity with national interests.

Authorized powers of members of the core press council are named in Notification No. 61/2012. They are tasked with compiling regulations and procedures of the Press Council and are permitted to freely develop the industry. These powers are also responsible for establishing connections with international organizations. They are sanctioned to address the row of newsmen in collecting and writing news. They have power to summon and coordinate with journalists who are in violation of the code of ethics.

According to the notification, these officials can also use their above-mentioned authority to collect evidence and to prescribe penal code, codes of civil procedure and tort law. The core members of press council even enjoy immunity from criminal or civil prosecution, as they are exercising duties and authority that have been unintentionally vested in them.

The Notification also says that they are advisers to the government concerning press affairs. Moreover, they have the power of taming and taking actions as necessary with the journalists who breached journalism ethics. Moreover, the council members have authority to coordinate with government departments concerning matters related to the Press Council. It also says that members are allowed to carry out training on national politics for development of press and human resources.

But, on the other hand, the ‘Organizing Committee for Myanmar Journalists Association’ released a statement dated 10 August objecting that some of the points were improper for the press council. It says that “Duties and responsibilities of MCPC” and “Authorities of MCPC” not only failed to protect the ‘Rights of Journalists’ but also systematically limited the media personnel’s routine careers.

If those inappropriate rules and regulations are not removed, they will not support the MCPC, the statement said.

On the same day, the Eleven Media Group (EMG) also released their position towards the ‘Formation of Myanmar Core Press Council’. EMG’s criticism of the core press council is that the members are former core executives of the junta-backed Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association (MWJA), who are pro-government and have business interests in the media sector. Appointing them as press council members constitutes a conflict of interest.

EMG also criticized an item under ‘Duties and responsibilities of MCPC’ as unacceptable. It states that “to supervise the expressions of those from the press field so that their expressions are not detrimental to the interest of the people, the dignity of the State and national sovereignty” is not only a veto on publications but also a ban on freedom of speech.

A journalist who wishes to remain anonymous said that the majority of journalists in the country do not support the MCPC, because the body was formed without prior discussion with media professionals and journalists. “The worst [part] is that most members are not appreciated in view of the general public due to their ethical backgrounds,” he said.

Several dozen journalists wearing black T-shirts displaying the slogan ‘Stop Killing Press’ launched a protest in Yangon and Mandalay last week to defy the suspension of two publications, amid fears that press censors and bureaucrats are returning to restore draconian censorship laws.