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Ownership of daily newspapers is still a major dilemma in Burma

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Burma's state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar published an article Monday flattering the current situation of media realm of the country as "A golden age of Myanmar's media', written by Su Thabyay Naing. The author also predicts the certain emergence of dailies in Burma in April.

The article says that media censorship in Burma (Myanmar) was eased in response to the demand of age. The author said that restriction curb was mid August, 2012, when pre-publication censorship was come to a close. But he did not mention in details what happened in last August.

In point of fact, on August 1, 92 journalists from Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN) and Myanmar Journalists Union (MJU) held a meeting at the Royal Rose Garden in Yangon and released a press statement. A number of journalists wearing black T-shirts decorated with the catchphrase STOP KILLING PRESS launched a demonstration in former capital Rangoon in early August 2012 to go up against the suspension of two journals the Voice Weekly Journal and the Envoy Journal.

In their press statement, the journalists declared that if the government endorsed a Press Law without seeking advice from the stakeholders of the press, they will not accept any outcome concerning the new bill. The media watchdog groups have been urging the Burmese authorities repeatedly to dump the unethical laws governing freedom of expression, especially the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act and other oppressive laws.

The author, Su Thabyay Naing, seemed to pay tribute to the government by saying that there were 220 magazines and 310 journals in circulation in 2012. Besides, he expressed in his article about a few insincerities of some journalists after the censorship was eased. It looked like he praised the government's generosity and blamed some journalists for breaching journalistic ethics somewhat.  Then, he indicated the Codes of Ethics issued by the Interim Press Council.

And the author gives the message that at the end of 2012, Private dailies will be allowed officially from 1 April on.  Currently, he said, journalists, publishers and economists were working for a variety of journals printed with colorful opinions.

The media related business-men say on permission of private dailies as an exciting industry new to the country, he said. As mentioned by the author, some professionals and economists are publishing journals with the hope to switch to daily newspapers. They have been waiting for a long time to enjoy publishing daily-newspapers, Su Thabyay Naing said.

He also gives hint that the government-owned newspaper enterprise is first transformed into 100 percent government-owned corporation which would likely change into public corporation with investments from the private sector.

Moreover, he gives details about the governing body of Public Service Newspaper which has distributed code of ethics, principles and fundamental functions with due transparency. The state-owned newspapers reviewed their forms, contents and then refresh the papers with multicolor editions to transform into public service media, Su Thabyay Naing said.

The author also advocates that consecutive governments of various countries support public service media which deliver accurate news items to the public without bias. And they also monitor whether these media serve the people, he said referring an unnamed veteran journalist.

However, at this point about bias, most citizens may not agree with the author. People have already judged the state-run papers Myanma Alinn, Kyemon and The New Light of Myanmar usually publish only the regimes misinformation. For instance, when the three papers published the news on ethnic conflicts, they used to state the rebels as destructive elements or illegal armed groups. They never mentioned the root causes of those armed struggles.

And it's an unreasonable remark made by an editor of The New Light of Myanmar who evaluates the paper as the most reliable newspaper, according to the author. The reason is that it never published news concerning big rallies of Burma's Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi during her domestic and international tours even though she has been becoming public focal point. But, the paper used to highlight routine events of President Thein Sein and Vice Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.

The author, Su Thabyay Naing, who seems to be on behalf of the authorities, finally advised that the journalists should abide by codes of conduct in order to set up a brighter future for the country's media sphere. His suggestion is probably a warning exactly in line with the government's policy of disciplined democracy.

However, Win Tin, a veteran journalist and former editor-in-chief of Hanthawady Daily, told the Eleven Media Group (EMG) concerning the private dailies last November.

He said, "The government talked about the publication of private newspapers variously. In that regard, the time has come to publish private newspapers. If possible, state-run newspapers should not exist. Even the Kyemon (Mirror) and Myanma Alin newspapers must be privatized. This is my opinion. Private newspapers must emerge. State-run newspapers should not exist," he criticized strongly.

So, another question emerges that to whom the daily papers will be allowed to publish as the business needs human resources, financial investments and skillfulness for competent distribution. Some observers are worried that the media industry may also be fallen into the hands of the military's cronies who get in the way of free-market reform process. If the cronies monopolized the majority ownership of the media trade, there may not be free, fair and healthy competition through the media industry sector.

As genuine journalists and media-men are not rich enough, they cannot financially afford to compete in the booming media industry. Hence, the military-backed government's cronies are going to take advantage of the situation.If cronies could have power over the media, Burma has to go for a long way to reach press freedom including freedom of expression.
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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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