Although the Myanmar government has lifted its pre-publication censorship covering news journals, the media still needs to be wary of the 1962 Press Act, media industry insiders said.
“There are still people making ‘offside traps’ in the media. The 1962 law is still there. So, we need to be cautious all the time,” said Dr Than Htut Aung, chairman and CEO of Eleven Media Group.
He was referring to the 1962 Press Act that imposes a maximum seven-year jail term for journalists who violate it.
He warned that there are people in the government who want to set back the reform process by trying to control the media.
“[The media] need to work together to deal with the problems. We need to watch over our journalists and the editorial teams so that they do not make any ‘offside’”, he added.
The Ministry of Information has recently instructed the Press Council to take action on sport news journals that encourage gambling like ‘spread betting’. This has caused a media war on Facebook.
“We have urged the Press Council to make necessary rules and restrictions for sports journals and report the spread betting,” Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut posted on Facebook.
But Kyaw Min Swe, secretary of the Press Council, claimed that the body has not received any report from the ministry or Ye Htut.
He struck back at the ministry for the rules that affected the press scrutiny board?
Some of the media was charged by the previous censorship board.
Chit Win Maung, a member of the press council and chief editor of a Tat Lan Journal, disagreed with the ministry’s instruction.
“Although press censorship no longer exists, it’s as if the Ministry of Information is trying to control us,” said Chit Win Maung.
“The 1962 Press law still exists so we can be sued anytime. While the press council is trying to strength the fourth pillar, I feel that this is not a form of cooperation but a kind of hindrance,” said Zaw Thet Htwe, another member of the press council.
Since the new government took office last year, it has introduced a series of reforms including the lifting of media censorship. Prior to this, it imposed a pre-publication censorship covering newspapers.
The Ministry of Information is in the process of redrafting the media law with the press council and it is uncertain whether the new draft bill could be passed in the ongoing parliamentary session, which resumed on October 18.