Burma may get its first privately owned television news station, an offspring of the popular Eleven Media Group (EMG), which said it will seek government approval.
EMG will also apply to launch a daily newspaper.
Dr. Than Htut Aung, the CEO and EMG chairman, said a democratic country should have private newspapers and television channels to ensure media freedom.
“It has been over one year since a democratically elected government took office in Myanmar. That is why we are applying for permission to launch a newspaper and a news television channel,” he said in an Eleven News article published on Thursday.
Than Htut Aung said he hoped to begin publication of a daily newspaper even before Burma’s new media law is approved, which is expected sometime during the current parliamentary session, which ends in August.
“It is possible to publish newspapers under the existing laws, including the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law,” he said.
He noted that Burma has no independent daily newspapers or TV news channels despite greater relaxation on censorship since the new government was formed in 2010.
Burma has seven daily newspapers and six TV channels, all state-run. The government has allowed some private companies to set up new channels focusing on entertainment.
Observers said the request for a TV news channel and privately owned daily newspaper would be a test of the new government’s commitment to freedom of speech and the press.
Expectations are high that the government will make strides to bring the new law up to press standards in the region, but many observers are skeptical on how far the government will go.
In May, Mizzima reported that the Burmese government would end prior censorship of news publications and form a press council to advise on media laws and ethnics, according to Information Minister Kyaw Hsan.
In a meeting held at Myanmar Radio and Television, he said that the changes would come into effect in June and July.
The council would include representatives from Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalist Union (MJU) and the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN). President Thein Sein would approve the council in June, according to Thurein Hlaing, a MJN executive committee member.
A local editor told Mizzima: “The minister said the government would relax censorship. The media bill will be drafted no later than June. It will be put forward in Parliament in July.”
Apparently, according to local editors, government officials said the new media law would permit all publications to run stories without submitting articles to censors prior to publication.
The new law would allow news and religious publications (now under prior censorship) to publish without submitting stories to the PSRD prior to publication, but they would be required to submit articles after publication.
“To say it generally all journals and magazines must submit copies to censors only after publication,” Thiha Saw, the chief editor of Myanmar Dhana magazine, told Mizzima.
Tint Swe, the deputy director general of the Information and Public Relations Department, recently wrote on his Facebook page that the PSRD, should be dissolved. The censorship board is frequently called the “Press Kempeitai” by the Burmese literary community, referring to the Japanese army’s brutal military police wing that was part of the occupation forces in Burma during World War II.
Tint Swe wrote: “All censorship tasks must be abolished completely. In the near future, new instructions and laws will come into effect. The writers who encountered serious obstacles and suffered will be free from the dark [obstacles and problems].”
He concluded the article, saying, “If you say my article is a message from the “Press Kempeitai,” who is in his dying breath, I’ll willingly accept it.”