The 6th Ethnic Media Conference began in Hpa-an yesterday with the motto “Promote Media Literacy for Ethnic Media Sustainability”.
The conference was formally opened by Union Minister for Information Dr. Pe Myint, Union Minister for Ethnic Affairs Nai Thet Lwin, Chief Minister of Kayin State Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint and Phado Saw Thamein Tun of Karen National Union.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Union Minister Dr. Pe Myint stressed the important role of ethnic media in development of the country, which is home to many ethnic races and tribes.
He clarified the undertakings of the Ministry of Information for development of the literacy and knowledge of ethnic people, urging the ethnic media to think about how to cooperate with the ministry after his explanation.
The Union Minister said the ministry gives permission for media inclusion and publishing permits in the printing sector after registration. He said that there are already numerous magazines and journals printed in ethnic languages and they are working on also printing books and newspapers in ethnic languages.
The Union Minister said state-run newspapers include extra pages with ethnic languages in them. For example, in Kayin State the newspapers also include Mon, Poe Kayin, Sakaw Kayin, and Pa-O languages; newspapers in Kachin include Jingphaw language; newspapers in Rakhine include Myanmar and Rakhine languages as well.
The Union Minister said the expansion of five additional TV channels will help propagate ethnic inclusion in the broadcasting sector. He added that MRTV has channels broadcasted in eleven ethnic languages and the national radio broadcasts include seventeen ethnic languages s well.
The Union Minister said that ethnic media willing to expand can do so after discussions and coordination and he has seen that many ethnic regions are willing to set up and broadcast their own community radio. He said that respective laws are being reviewed and amended to allow local community radio all over the country to legally broadcast.
The Union Minister said that when the Media Amendment Bill is approved, they will draft new rule for community radios to emerge. He said that collaboration with the Myanmar Press Council will ensure ethnic people’s media and other media agencies in Myanmar will have smoother news gathering soon. He added that this will also help media agencies to contact and work closely with the three branches of government.
In the 2018 edition of Freedom of the Press Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Myanmar is ranked No. 137, which the Union Minister said is a decrease from previous years and may be the result of some tensions with the international community. However, neighbouring countries such as India, China, Thailand, Laos, and Bangladesh all rank lower than Myanmar on the index. Myanmar also ranks third on the ASEAN countries’ index on Press freedom behind Indonesia and the Philippines. The Union Minister encouraged asking questions when interacting with other organisations to find ways to improve, as Myanmar is on its democratic transition and not a fully democratic country yet.
The Union Minister said that freedom is dependent on the extent of the democratic presence. He said that Myanmar is still on the path to a democratic federal union, and when democracy becomes more prevalent, then press freedom will become more evident.
The Union Minister said media agencies will have to build relations with the three branches of government to gather and disseminate news, therefore coordination is important for this endeavour.
Union Minister for Ethnic Affairs Nai Thet Lwin said ethnic media should raise awareness on the harmful effects of drug addiction that is prevalent in ethnic regions. He said the ministry should find ways for the sustainable development of ethnic media.
Kayin State Chief Minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint said there will be coordinated discussions to ensure sustainable development of ethnic media in Kayin State.
Phado Saw Thamein Tun from the Karen National Union (KNU) and Nan Phaw Gay, Chairperson of Ethnic Media Commemoration Committee, delivered opening speeches followed by Naw Ae Paw Wa introducing some aspects of Kayin State.
This was followed by the Union Ministers and the State Chief Minister posing for documentary photos with attendees.
The first Ethnic Media Conference was held in Mawlamyine, Mon State, the second in Taunggyi, Shan State, the third in Haka, Chin State, the fourth in MraukU, Rakhine State, and the fifth in Loikaw, Kayah State. The current conference is a collaboration by Burma News International (BNI) and Kayin Information Center and will continue for three days until 29 April in Hpa-An, Kayin State. The conference will have paper reading sessions, group discussions, panel discussions, round table discussions, and dissemination of the results of the conference.