Will Burma’s new Information Minister pave way for media freedom?
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Will Burma’s new Information Minister pave way for media freedom?

Burma’s President Thein Sein has appointed Aung Kyi as new Information Minister in the cabinet reshuffle on August 27. Aung Kyi was the former Labor Minister, who also served as the previous military junta’s liaison with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while she was under house arrest.

Aung Kyi has suggested that ‘Myanmar Libraries Foundation’ should distribute more facts about publications through television. He raised the idea while meeting Myanmar Libraries Foundation members a Printing and Publishing Enterprise in Rangoon on 9 September 2012, the state-run media said.

He called attention to the role of the Libraries Foundation as an imperative institution for the nation, demanding better competence.

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He also suggested accepting ideas from the international community in order to support the foundation. The goal of the government today is to offer best service delivery through people-centered procedure, he said.

Although there have been some changing conditions, libraries still continue to exist in developed countries, he pointed out. The Information minister encouraged the establishment of reference libraries, which could help reform, and urged the improvement of rural libraries.

There is optimism in media circles that the Information Minister will help pave the way for true press freedom in Burma. Within a week of his appointment  he had met important media-related persons in order to study the situation on the ground.

On September 2 he met Maung Wuntha, Chairman of the Myanmar Journalists Association. On the same day, he also met with executive members, actors and directors from Myanmar Motion Picture Organization (MMPO).

On September 8, Aung Kyi met with executives members of Myanmar Writers Association at the meeting hall of Myanmar Radio and Television Studio in Rangoon.

On September 9 he met with executives members of Myanmar Journalists Union Organization Committee. On the same day, he also met with executive members of Myanmar Journalists Network.

On September 2, he had an interview with the Myanmar Times Journal and he spoke in support of abolishing the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law.  Aung Kyi told Myanmar Times that it is essential for a democratic country to allow private-owned daily newspapers to operate and predicted that daily publishing licenses will be issued to the private sector early next year.

“I will do my best to ensure that the private sector publications can launch dailies. But before that happens we need some reforms, especially in terms of the institutional capacity to provide for such a development. Our focus is to serve the interests of the people and the President has already announced this strategy. It is because the people’s interest has to be taken into account that I cannot say exactly when daily newspaper licenses will be granted. But if the necessary preparations are made I estimate they might be granted early next year,” the Information Minister said during an interview with The Myanmar Times.