The 8th Media Development Conference was held at Parkroyal Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw under COVID-19 prevention guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Sports.
The conference focussed on the role of media and their duties in elections.
Attending the meeting were Union Election Commission Chairman U Hla Thein, Union Minister for Information Dr Pe Myint, Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun, UEC members, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Information and department heads, Myanmar Press Council Chairman U Ohn Kyaing and council members, and invited persons from UNESCO, IMS Fogo, Internews, JICA, MYPOL, DW Akademie and BBC Media Action while officials from foreign embassies, UNESCO, NGOs, INGOs, foreign and local journalists, and others joined in via Zoom.
Mr Moez Chakchouk, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communications and Information said the right to vote is not the only aspect of a fair and free election. There needs to be public participation in elections to implement democracy, right to information and making decisions based on the information, and for the people to engage in discussions as well.
UEC Chairman U Hla Thein delivered the opening speech where he said the UEC has announced for the General Elections to be held on 8 November and it will be held in compliance with the 5 norms of being free, fair, transparent, credible and reflecting the will of the people. Elections are an important event for democratic countries. The people need to get educated with election information to ensure the elections are free and fair.
The UEC has conducted election awareness campaigns and organized rules for voters and political parties campaigning to follow, which can all be viewed on the UEC’s website. They are also working closely with the Myanmar Press Council to further proliferate the news, with civil society organizations to inform people of voter education in the states and regions, and with Myanmar Music Association to produce songs and short films related to elections. The UEC is cooperating with Myanmar Press Council and the Facebook Team to ensure there is no conflict arising from hate speech, disinformation and misinformation as the campaign period approaches.
Union Minister Dr Pe Myint said a wide variety of topics on media development has been discussed up to this 8th conference. He shared his opinion that Myanmar’s media sector has continuously developed over 8 years. The censorship system was removed and private daily newspapers were allowed to publish resulting in the formation of media associations and then the press council. Media freedom became widespread and numerous discussions and training courses on media have been organized while media personnel have been involved in drafting media laws. There are now discussions between the four pillars and press conferences from different government departments.
Dr Pe Myint said international technology development in media should be discussed extensively and we should adapt to new media technology. He said we should discuss developing digital media systematically in Myanmar. The people will receive comprehensive information on elections from impartial news reporting combined with different perspectives from different media organizations, said the Union Minister, adding that there should not be hate speech or targeted criticism towards a certain individual.
Myanmar Press Council (MPC) Chairman U Ohn Kyaing said Myanmar’s media industry has achieved success due to cooperation between the Ministry of Information and journalists. Myanmar is transitioning into a democracy and sovereignty is achieved from the people. The UEC and MPC are conducting election information activities in advance.
Danish Ambassador Mr John Nielsen said the upcoming election can have different elements compared to the elections in 2015. The coming elections will be during the spread of COVID-19 and the use of Facebook has vastly proliferated in Myanmar. These are two things to keep in mind when planning the elections.
Discussions began after the opening ceremony on the topics of the role of the media in elections for 2010 and the comparisons and lessons learnt from the elections in 2015 and 2018. AFP Foreign Correspondent Daw Hla Hla Htay acted as the moderator for the panelists who included UEC member U Myint Naing, MPC member Daw Ei Ei Tin, Programme Specialist Mr Andrea Cairola of UNESCO’s Communications and Information Sector, and Mr John Reiner Antiquerra, Programme Officer for Outreach and Communications of Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL). The panelists then answered questions raised from the online audience.
The 8th Media Development Conference will continue till 28 August and will cover topics on the elections and safety for journalists, practical use of codes of conduct during elections, elections in the age of social media, and election news, challenges and resolutions in ethnic areas and the states and regions. —MNA (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)