Vibrant debate on way forward for Myanmar media

Election reporting, media ethics and public service broadcasting were among the topics on the agenda at the 3rd Conference on Media Development in Yangon

Greater access to information for journalists and further professionalisation of the media were amongst the ways forward set out in the concluding remarks made by Myanmar Minister of Information U Ye Htut at the 3rd Conference on Media development in Myanmar on 18 – 19 September. This year’s conference took place under the theme “Moving towards a sustainable media environment”.

“As we already know, media reform is the most important process in President U Thein Sein’s reform. We didn’t have enough experience of the role of media in democracy to implement the reform process. We want to develop a vibrant democracy in our country, which is not possible without citizen participation. For this we depend on the media,” said H.E. U Ye Htut, Minister of Information, at the conference.

Media reform in Myanmar has come far since 2011 with a Media Law adopted earlier this year and a Code of Conduct for journalists recently published by the interim Press Council. But as several speakers pointed out, laws that infringe on freedom of expression still need to be addressed. The lack of professionalism amongst journalists is another major challenge participants pointed to, particularly in light of the media’s important role in covering conflict and in relation to upcoming elections in 2015.

The conference yielded many policy options and an agenda for the way forward. During the conference, the Minister of Information, the Press Council and local media brainstormed on various challenges, and developed consensus on precise action points on how to overcome them.

Participants emphasised the need for improved access to information and the passage of laws based on the right to freedom of expression, as well as for policies and programmes which will support wider distribution of newspapers and journals in remote communities, and greater transparency by national and local officials in dealing with the news media.

As the private sector begins to invest more in the media sector, an agenda on how to ensure a fair and competitive business environment was extensively discussed. Capacity development of journalists was identified as one of the top priorities in almost all sessions including both academic degree and short-term courses. Speakers and participants also outlined possible parameters in media coverage of the peace process, elections, human rights and other development concerns.

Read the main points from each area of the discussions here

The conference was organised by the Myanmar Media Development Thematic Working Group jointly with UNESCO, the Ministry of Information (MoI) and International Media Support (IMS). The first Myanmar Media Development Conference took place in Yangon in March 2012. That meeting was the first of its kind in Myanmar to specifically address media development in a gathering of national and international media stakeholders. It was followed by the 2nd Conference on Media Development in May 2013. For more information about the conferences, please contact