Media conference discusses safety of journalists, access to information

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya presenting a global study on journalism safety. Photo: Mizzima

Members of government organisations, military and media outlets discussed the safety of journalists and access to information, calling for unity to protect reporters that encounter challenges, during a panel session at the 6th Media Development Conference at Yangon’s Chatrium Hotel on Thursday.

Describing the situation on the ground, Aung Ko Ko, broadcast journalist at DVB TV, who is based in Rakhine state, said that the main challenge remains access to information.

“Many journalists who arrive in the region are being asked to leave,” he said. “The photos taken in the conflict area by those who are already there, are getting checked by government security officials who advise them not to publish.”

Yu Lwin Aung, Myanmar National Human Rights Commissioner, emphasized the importance of private media outlets, calling it “the fourth pillar of our country.”

“Since 2011, freedom of expression is embodied in the law, but we still need to build the trust between the government and the media,” he said.

He also said that while journalists have to fulfil their duty by providing facts, reporting accurately and truthfully, there are yet many who are trying to defame people.

Dr. Ranga Kalansooriya, regional advisor at International Media Support, stressed the importance of a free media within a democracy.

“We need to establish mechanisms across many pillars to protect journalism,” he said. “The media can’t do that alone.”

“Today, journalists in many places are not safe, because some people don’t want to have their story told,” he added while presenting a global study on journalism safety.

A senior military official in the audience made closing remarks and said that they are always committed to provide security for their citizens including journalists, “however in certain cases instructions need to be followed and we need to abide by the law.”

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