Burma: Minister promises to open media law to consultation, and respect international standards
11 Sep 2012
ARTICLE 19 welcomes the announcement by Burma’s new Minister for Information and Communication, Aung Kyi, that his ministry will revise the country’s proposed media law into a ‘zero draft’, publish it for consultation with the media, and ensure it meets international standards.
Burma’s draft media law is reportedly in its sixth version after a series of revisions by the Ministry for Information and Communication (MOIC), the previous minister, Kyaw Hsan, and other governmental offices. The media law was originally due to be adopted in June 2012, but has been repeatedly delayed and is now due in early 2013.
Civil society groups including ARTICLE 19 have been calling for the ministry to publish the draft media law for consultation with civil society, but until now the government has refused to release it or consult. As such, the law’s main stakeholders, the media, have never seen the draft or been able to feed into its development.
MOIC Minister, Aung Kyi has announced to meetings with senior journalists that he intends to return the draft law back to its early stages of development by stripping it down to a framework and publishing a ‘zero draft’ ready for discussion with the media and other civil society.
Minister Aung Kyi also announced his attention to ensure the new media law meets international standards.
ARTICLE 19 welcomes Minister Aung Kyi’s announcement. Publishing draft laws for public discussion is in itself an international standard in a democracy. The Burmese government’s previous refusal to publish the draft law was emblematic of its policy for ‘guided’ democracy, in which the government, together with the military, decide what is best for the Burmese people.
ARTICLE 19 recommends the following to the Burmese government, the MOIC and Minister Aung Kyi in particular:
- Laws covering the print media need to be approached with caution. ARTICLE 19’s experience has shown that laws which specifically apply to the print media are unnecessary and tend to be used to excessively restrict the right to freedom of expression and information. International standards require the print media to be free of government regulation.
- Journalists and other media actors should establish a self-regulatory system. Any media law should emphasise that a body overseeing the print media is independent, both politically and financially, from government or other outside parties, unlike the existing 20-member Myanmar Core Press Council. Reform of the press should promote a model based on self-regulation rather than licencing, as can be found in many advanced democracies worldwide
- Any media law should emphasise that journalists should be free to practice without the need for a licence. It should also state that anybody can be a journalist, regardless of for example age or educational qualifications.
- Any limitations to the right to freedom of expression within the media law should pass the three-part test in international law, namely that they be written in law, have a legitimate aim, and be absolutely necessary in a democracy to achieve said aim.
ARTICLE 19 recommends that Minister Aung Kyi also focuses on reforming the broadcasting sector to ensure its diversity and plurality. International standards on the broadcasting media require a government to set up a fully independent regulatory body to govern the limited number of radio frequencies and make sure they are given out in a way that maximizes diversity and plurality.
ARTICLE 19 is ready to provide Minister Aung Kyi our full support and constructive assistance, as we have done with many governments worldwide.