Burma held ‘Conference on Public Service Media’ at Inya Lake Hotel, on 25-26 September, according to the state-run news media. It seems to be a fresh start under the new Information Minister.

Burma’s information ministry had put an end to its out-of-date censorship laws in last August. The extraordinary declaration seemed the hottest in a series of wide-ranging reforms since the ending of military junta’s ruling in November 2010.

Tint Swe, the director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division (PSRD), told a group of newspaper editors in Rangoon on 20 August that they would be no longer required to submit advance copies of their publications to his censor office, according to the PSRD’s website.

However, on 9 August 2012, Burmese Government released its Notification No. 61/2012 stating the ‘Formation of Myanmar Core Press Council’ (MCPC) which consists of 20 members, The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said on 10 August. Even though, the majority of journalists in the country did not support the MCPC, because the body was formed without prior discussion with media professionals and journalists. The worst portion was that most members were not appreciated in consideration of the general public due to their ethical backgrounds.

On August 27, Burma’s President Thein Sein has appointed Aung Kyi as new Information Minister in the cabinet reshuffle. The media circle has confidence that the new Information Minister will facilitate in support of true press freedom in Burma. Within a week of his appointment he had met many important journalists and media-related persons so as to study the situation on the floor.

On 17 September, a transitory press council has been shaped at the Chatrium Hotel in Rangoon. The new Information Minister Aung Kyi also attended the meeting concerning reform of the new press council. The media ring has an expectation that Aung Kyi will support true press freedom in Burma. In fact, this newly established press council comes into view since the majority of media personnel have rejected the formation of MCPC.

It was a good sign holding a “Conference on Public Service Media” at Inya Lake Hotel, on 25-26 September. According to te state-run news media, Deputy Minister for Information U Ye Htut, Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw representatives and representatives from political parties were presented at the event.

Moreover, also at the conference were responsible persons from DVB, Swedish Radio Media Development Office, International Media Support (IMS), Myanmar journalist associations and Ministry of Information.

Information Minister Aung Kyi attended the meeting of creation of a new press council on 17 Sept. 2012.(Photo: http://www.ministryofinformation.gov.mm)

During the occasion, newly appointed Information Minister Aung Kyi made a speech. The Information Minister said that Public Service Media would help making a greater sense of national identity and would also foster democratic and other important social values. Besides, it provides quality educational and informational training, and serves the needs of minority and other particular significant groups, he said.

“Public broadcasting performs a crucial role in ensuring the public’s right to receive a wide diversity of independent and non-partisan information and ideas. It also serves as a meeting place where all citizens are welcomed and considered equals and where social issues are discussed. It has probably been the greatest of the instruments of social democracy to be accessible to all and meant for all,” Aung Kyi said at the Conference on Public Service Media, as reported by The New Light of Myanmar.

Chairman Harlad Bockman of Democratic Voice of Burma presided over the first session of the conference and resource persons read the paper under the title Public Service Journalism. In the second session of the conference chaired by Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran of SEAPA, the resource persons read the paper under the title Public Service Broadcasting in Theory and Practice. U Soe Thein (Maung Wun Tha-Writer/Journalist) presided over the third session and resource persons read the paper under the title PSB in Myanmar. They replied to questions and discussions of the attendees, the state-run newspaper said.

Even though the Thein Sein government has repeatedly said it has been working hard to introduce a media law, it does not say to revoke the media unfriendly laws, i.e. The Burma Wireless Telegraphy Act (1933), Printers and Publishers Registration Law (1962), The Television and Video Act (1995),  The Motion Picture Law (1996) , The Computer Science Development Law (1996),  Internet Law (2000, Wide Area Network Establishment and Service Providing order No. 3/2002, Electronic Transactions Law (2004).

New York based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has time and again advocated for the government to repeal restrictive laws including the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act and the 2004 Electronics Act–vague and draconian legislation that has been used to jail journalists and curb Internet freedoms.