09 Feb Myanmar parliament defeats media freedom vote

Written by Win Ko Ko Latt Published in Media Read 2661 times
National League for Democracy MP U Phyo Min Thein for Hlegu Township, Yangon. Photo: Phyo Min Thein/Facebook
National League for Democracy MP U Phyo Min Thein for Hlegu Township, Yangon. Photo: Phyo Min Thein/Facebook

Nay Pyi Taw – A motion urging the government to take measures to allow freedom of the press with accountability and responsibility in accordance with the law failed to pass in a vote during the sitting of the Lower House on February 6.

National League for Democracy MP U Phyo Min Thein for Hlegu Township, Yangon proposed the motion but it failed to pass 51 for and 217 against with 18 abstentions, the main opposition coming from the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party and military MPs.

Opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed surprise, in a response to a question from Mizzima, following the vote.

“The motion included the term ‘in accordance with the law.’ I cannot understand why [the MPs] opposed the proposal to allow this ‘in accordance with the law.’ We have to ask the question to the MPs who casted their votes [against the motion],” she said.

U Phyo Min Thein explained that media personnel have been arrested and some killed in Myanmar, so the country’s level of media freedom is below international standards, and the international community has been closely watching Myanmar’s media situation.

He said this was why he submitted the motion calling on the government to take measures to protect the freedom of the media to report.

“I feel sad and surprised. I doubt whether parliament listens to the voices of its citizens,” U Phyo Min Thein said.

He pointed to the death of freelance journalist Ko Par Gyi aka Ko Aung Kyaw Naing and the charge against Eleven Media Group filed by the Information Ministry over stories alleging impropriety of government officials involved in the purchase of a printing press.

He also pointed out that the case in which five journalists at the Unity Journal were sentenced to 10 years in prison, later reduced to seven, for publishing a story alleging a secret military facility was being built to produce chemical weapons in Magway Region.

In response to U Phyo Min Thein’s motion, Deputy Information Minister U Pike Htway told the Lower House that provisions already exist concerning the protection of the media.

“If the media obey the media ethics established by the Press Council and the existing laws, no legal action will be taken against [them],” he said.

Lower House MP U Thein Nyunt of Thingangyun Township and chairman of the New National Democracy Party, who voted in favour of the motion, said: “Whatever the problem, the problems like these should be solved by using the media law. Therefore, I cast an affirmative vote.”

U Myint Kyaw, a member of the Press Council (Interim), told Mizzima by phone, “The government and the army seem to be allergic to the media and afraid of the media.”

He said the relevant media organizations are trying to ensure news media accountability. And the government needs to give the media the right to freely collect news.