Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut: Public Service Media (PSM) would be used for the 2015 Election

The Public Service Media (PSM) would be used for the 2015 Election, Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut said on Saturday during the press conference.

The deputy minister made the remark in reply to the question by The Daily Eleven whether PSM is a form of preparation by the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) for the upcoming election in 2015.

While Ye Htut confirmed that PSM has been prepared for the 2015 Election, he denied that it is under the USDP.

“It will never be the mouthpiece of any political party. It will only be the mouthpiece of the public,” said Ye Htut.

“When you look at the media coverage during the 2012 by-election, 90 per cent of them were about one or two big parties.  If so, how will smaller parties and ethnic parties get the chance to speak?”

According to him, PSM will allow politicians and parties a chance to speak while also serve as a platform for social organisations to raise issues to politicians.

“So, we are preparing to give fair coverage and equal chance for the ‘media prism’,” he said.

Although the deputy minister said he would not get involved in the state-owned newspapers after the media law come out, journalists were suspicious of how much success the state-media turned PSM outlets will have in reaching the objectives of PSM.

He is, however, positive that PSM will succeed in Myanmar even though it was under military rule for many years by giving examples of its success in Germany, which was under Hitler’s rule, and Czechoslovakia and Poland, which were former Communist countries.

“The Parliament will decide [whether to approve the PSM bill or not]. They will act after listening to public voice,” said Ye Htut.

Ye Tun from the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) argued that Myanmar should implement a Public Service Media (PSM) Bill as the private media cannot be completely trusted. The ethnic party leader made the comment during a meeting to discuss the Printing and Publishing Bill drafted by the Information Ministry in Yangon on Sunday.

The meeting was attended by members of a Parliament committee for sport, culture and public relations development, the Parliament’s joint-bill committee and the interim Myanmar Press Council.

“I want to raise the issue of whether a Public Service Media should exist. Business people would say in view of business that the government is trying to compete with them as they have yet to settle that themselves. But it (PSM) should exist to serve the public interest because I don’t think we can trust the private media completely,” said Ye Tun.

The Bill aims to reform the current state-owned Myanmar Radio and Television, the Mirror and the Myanmar Alin dailies into a “Public Service Media” which will still need 70 percent of public funds. The meeting came after Ministry of Information officials, led by Deputy Minister Ye Htut, held a press conference on the submission of the PSM Bill to the upcoming Parliamentary session on Saturday.

Although Htut has said that the state-run newspapers are making a healthy profit, the government’s announcement to spend public funds on running the newspapers in the form of a Public Service Media has drawn criticism from the media industry.

“The Deputy Minister said the Mirror and Myanmar Alin dailies earn billions in profit. He said they can be run only with income from advertisements. So why are they asking for 70 percent of the funds?” said Khin Maung Lay (also known as Pho Thaukkya) from the Press Council.

The politician’s remark was slammed by the members of the interim Press Council who have been voicing strong opposition to the PSM Bill claiming that it is not in the public interest and does not protect media freedoms.

“I object to what Ye Tun has said. We have to show our opposition if those parties calling themselves ‘democratic’ try to say something that can harm freedom of press. We will welcome even the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party if it wants to protect press freedom. But we don’t accept indirect control over media freedom,” said Dr Thein Myint, a member of the interim Press Council.

The interim press council has strongly criticised the PSM Bill, saying it is just voicing the Ministry of Information’s needs and desires and does not take into account the existing laws protecting media freedom.

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