credit emg 5 july 2013
The Lower House of Parliament has approved a Printing and Publishing Enterprise Bill in Nay Pyi Taw on Thursday after amending, subtracting and supplementing 24 points, despite criticism from media organisations.
Two clauses have been totally removed. They are ‘Publications that are contrary to the constitution and other existing laws’ stated under Article 7 of Chapter (3); and ‘No one is allowed to bring overseas publications or issue publications locally that violate any condition of Article 7 although they are not declared illegal beforehand.
Prison sentences set under Articles 20, 21 and 22 of Chapter (7) have also been discarded. And instead, those who break the rules and regulations are to pay fines as prescribed in the bill.
One of the supplemented points states that any condition in this law shall not bar a citizen from expressing, speaking and writing freely as enshrined in the constitution and that any action taken in line with this law shall not harm the right of the citizens to express, speak and write freely in accord with the law.
Another supplemented provision says that if no separate law is enacted, anyone shall not be allowed to engage in broadcasting, apart from printing and publishing. According to another new provision, the right of the fourth estate to assume and express freely in accord with the law shall not be infringed.
Moreover, a clause in Chapter (2) stating that ‘A printer or publisher shall have the right to appeal to the minister if their license or permit is revoked or suspended for a certain period has been amended. In the amended version, the bill states that a printer, publisher or news agency shall have the right to appeal to the President.
Since its disclosure by the Information Ministry, the press bill has attracted criticism from journalists and media organisations for still containing provisions that control or oppress the journalists and provisions that are not related to printing and publishing processes.
The bill was also criticised for being drafted in parallel with the media bill by the Press Council, for containing strict rules and disciplines for printing and publishing in Chapter (3) and offences and punishments in Chapter (7).
“This bill was not drafted by the interim Press Council, but it was written by the Information Ministry. First we opposed it. Later, we asked the ministry to include in the bill the points we wanted to fill in and the amendments we wanted to make. The council has not been informed whether the points we want are included in the bill. We have forwarded the media bill we drafted to Parliament,” said Kyaw Min Swe, secretary of the interim Press Council and chief editor of The Voice Daily.
Pe Myint, chief editor of People’s Age News Journals also said:
“We demanded some amendments to the press bill. One point we have demanded is that we don’t want any scrutiny. Now we no longer need pre-censorship. But we don’t want to see scrutiny and bans only after publications. That is why we asked the ministry to change the registration department into an archive one. We don’t know whether our demands are included in the bill or not.”
According to the interim Press Council member Dr Thein Myint, the ministry has replied with remarks that it cannot accept 17 points included in the media bill (second draft) written by the press council.