Journalist unions in Myanmar in joint campaign for press freedom

For the first time, Myanmar Journalists Network (MJN), Myanmar Journalists Union (MJU) and Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), join forces in a campaign for new media laws that support press freedom

In a show of solidarity, the three journalists’ organisations MJN, MJU and MJA are merging their efforts in a campaign to raise public support and awareness about legislation that they feel restricts freedom of media. Campaigners from all three organisations wearing colourful t-shirts reading “Give the right to media freedom so that the public can access true information” have been traveling to cities and to media houses across Myanmar to collect signatures backing opposition against the draft Print and Publishing Enterprise Bill approved by the Lower House in Parliament in July.

“Press freedom is not only for journalists, it is also for the people so that they can access the right information,” says Myint Kyaw, Secretary General of the Myanmar Journalist Network in an interview with International Media Support (IMS).

“Our aim with this campaign is to get the attention of MPs, political bodies, and the President’s office.”

The campaign is a sign that the three journalists unions are keeping a close eye on the ongoing democratic reform process that began in 2011, and guarding the newfound freedoms gained by the country’s media.

Bill designed “to control press freedom”

According to the Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), the Bill, which is drafted by the Ministry of Information, has elements which curb press freedom and could stop the public’s access information. While criticism from the Interim Press Council in mid 2013 prompted the Ministry of Information to amend the draft legislation, many of these agreed amendments were not implemented when the Bill was approved by the Lower House in July, according to the MJN. One of the elements criticised within the legislation is the requirement for all online news and print media to register for a license with the Ministry of Information which would have the right to delay or revoke licenses.

Final approval now awaits from the Upper House of Parliament, which discussed the legislation on 20 August and recommended a number of amendments.

The signed petitions obtained during the campaign will be submitted to the President and government officials once the campaign has ended. Towards the end of August some 11,000 signatures from six cities had been gathered.