Reporters Without Borders regrets the proposed Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law’s adoption by the lower house of parliament (Pyithu Hluttaw) on 4 July as it runs counter to all the interim Press Council’s recommendations and has been widely criticized by the Burmese media.
“We fully support those journalists who are calling for this repressive bill to be abandoned,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The upper house must reject this proposed law in its present form as it does not meet international standards on protection of the media.
“The state-owned New Light of Myanmar newspaper reports that information minister Aung Kyi has promised to consider all amendments submitted by the Press Council submits ‘as long as they meet international norms.’ Compliance with section 77 of the code of parliamentary procedure is not grounds for presenting such draconian legislation to parliament.
“We seem to have reached a turning point in the reform process initiated by the government in 2011, one that will clarify its real intentions. The government cannot continue indefinitely to point to the measures it took in 2012 as evidence of its goodwill while at the same time trying to reassert control over the media.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “We are aware that reform of media legislation is a long process that requires the involvement of many government bodies but at no point should the news providers themselves be excluded from this process.”
The proposed Printing and Publishing Enterprise Law was adopted after inclusion of several amendments. The information ministry unveiled the original draft in March after the interim Press Council had just unveiled its own proposals.
The Press Council immediately condemned the government’s draft as being too broad in its scope and, above all, for containing many restrictions on freedom of expression. For example, it forbids any criticism of the 2008 constitution and envisages maintaining the print media licensing system, which the information ministry can use to control media.
Several journalists such as Thiha Saw and Zaw Thet Htwe announced yesterday that they would resign as members of the Press Council if they upper house approves the proposed law.
At the same time, a proposed law for reforming the state-owned media is also being criticized by some journalists, who suspect that the government intends use it to keep a tight grip on what should be public service media.
This latest clash between government and journalists has come just days after the authoritiesbanned the July issue of Time Magazine because it had a cover story about the Burmese nationalist monk Ashin Wirathu called “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”