Report on Media Development in Myanmar released

02 June 2016
Report on Media Development in Myanmar released
The ceremony to launch the ‘Assessment of Media Development in Myanmar’ is held in Yangon. Photo: MNA

More than 80 people from the media sector, the government, international cooperation agencies, academia and civil society came together on 1 June to attend the launch of UNESCO’s Report on Media Development in Myanmar, based on the UNESCO Media Development Indicators.
“The timing of this launch cannot be better than now,” said Sardar Umar Alam, Head of UNESCO Yangon Office to kick-off the launch that took place in Yangon today. “The result of this two-year’s process is remarkable in the way the Journalism Department of the National Management Degree College took the ownership of the process”, he added.
In his opening remarks, Dr Pe Myint, the newly appointed Minister of Information in Myanmar, highlighted key positive developments of the Myanmar media sector such as the abolishment of past prior censorship and the emergence of new private media. “The report of UNESCO and IMS is very comprehensive and reflects the current situation of the media in Myanmar. The recommendations give us good advice and I hope it will contribute to the development of the media sector in Myanmar” he concluded.
Mr David Holmertz, Counsellor of the Embassy of Sweden Section Office in Yangon, expressed his satisfaction with “the way this assessment has been done – not as a one-off exercise conducted by external experts, but rather as an organic process with multi-stakeholder consultations.” “We are also very pleased to see the partnership with UNESCO in its important role in catering for cooperation between national stakeholders, including the Government, the UN system and development partners.” he emphasized. “If the conducting of the assessment has been a multi-stakeholder one, involving all of us, it is our hope that the recommendations will be used by all of us as well.” he concluded.
During the presentation of the report, Misako Ito, Adviser for Communication and Information at UNESCO Bangkok, said “This factual and analytical study is the most comprehensive and in-depth report on the media sector currently available in Myanmar.” Glen Swanson, IMS Programme Manager in Yangon, added “This public launch today can now be seen as first step towards utilizing this report for systematic reform and change. As the new ministry takes its position in the new government we trust that this publication can also serve to guide their intent and become a benchmark for the community to measure and weigh the progress.”
“The recommendations are true, and there is a lot to be done to enhance the credibility of the Myanmar News Media Council” said the Chairman of News Media Council, U Khin Maung Lay.
During the discussion on the ways forward for media development in Myanmar, Dr Zin Mar Kyaw from the Department of Journalism at the National Management Degree College (NMDC), highlighted some key recommendations arising from the report such as significant reforms to the colonial-era Penal Code that restrict freedom of expression, strengthening of the Myanmar News Media Council in order to perform its function as a media-self regulatory body, professionalization of the media workers, and fostering journalism education.
U KoKo, Chief Executive Officer of Myanmar News Network and member of the Jury of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, highlighted that the level of public trust was higher for the state media than for the private media. “There is a need to strengthen professional journalism among the private media” he emphasized. “It is alarming that only 4% of the senior staff or heads of media houses are in need of training whereas there should be more!” He also pointed out to the Government that the distribution channels of the newspapers in the rural areas should be improved to reach out communities outside Yangon and the news coverage from the ethnic media should be given more visibility in mainstream media.
During the debate the Dean of the NMDC explained that the level of public trust is higher in the state media as the journalists have easier access to the right facts and accuracy helps to improve public trust. Hence the need for the adoption and effective implemntation of the right to access to information. She stressed that the NMDC is the only university providing journalism degree in Myanmar with only 50 graduates per year which is too limited.
Bart Robertson, the lead author of the report, explained the paradox of the news stories from ethnic media that are accessible to a wider public but are not necessarily desired by the ethnic groups. He also mentioned the difficulty to operate as ethnic media as they face barriers in accessing to the training and in languages.
Myanmar is the sixteenth country in the world for which an MDI assessment was undertaken. Conducted jointly by UNESCO and International Media Support between May 2014 and April 2016, the assessment process included a series of capacity-building workshops on the MDI methodology, consultations, interviews, public opinion polls, focus group discussions, legal stock take and literature review.
The assessment offers recommendations aimed at supporting policy makers and media stakeholders to address gaps on the way to a free, independent and professional media environment – the core objectives of the UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC).