Media freedom in Myanmar has progressed significantly in recent years, but its future remains uncertain as the newly elected government assumes power, Soe Myint, the editor-in-chief and managing director of Mizzima Media, told the International Press Institute (IPI)’s 2016 World Congress.
Yangon was the site of IPI’s 2015 World Congress, which came ahead of the first fully democratic election in the country after nearly five decades of authoritarian rule. While many developments have occurred in press freedom in the past six years, there is still room for improvement, Myint said during an interview on Monday about Myanmar’s post-election media landscape.
After 2010, people could express themselves more freely using their mobile phones and the Internet, despite some challenges still existing, Myint said. He also told audiences that the independent and private media sectors have flourished in recent years, noting: “We have an independent journalists’ association [and] we now have an independent press council.”
A new broadcasting law was adopted in August 2015 that aims to promote professionalism in Myanmar’s media, Myint said, but he noted that some provisions were problematic. He also said that there are still many aspects of media freedom that the newly elected government should work to improve.
“We don’t have censorship on print and Internet but we have the broadcast system, which is a state-controlled industry,” Myint said.
The journalist noted that a general distrust exists among the public when it comes to media and that there is a similar gap in trust between journalists and elements of the military still represented in the government. Myint said the latter could be reduced by encouraging interaction between the military and the media through workshops and seminars that would ensure both that their space in society is respected.
“There are many good things [that] happened in the last four to five years, but again, there’s a lot that needs to happen in the near future,” he said
Myint also confirmed that, so far, Myanmar’s Ministry of Information has honoured a promise the country’s information minister made during IPI’s 2015 World Congress not to retaliate against journalists who demonstrated outside the Congress venue in protest of alleged police brutality targeting colleagues covering other protests in the preceding weeks.
Read an assessment of Myanmar’s media “Moving Forward” that Myint prepared in advance of the IPI World Congress.