Amyotha Hluttaw yesterday held its 11th-day meeting, and with questions of MPs to the Ministry of Health and Sports, the Ministry of Information, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, and the Ministry of Office of the Union Government. The 11th-day meeting also approved the report on activities of Farmers’ Affairs Committee and the report on activities of Committee on Immigration and Myanmar Internal and Migrant Workers.
MP U Lin Tin Htay from Mon State constituency 4 raised a question whether the government has a plan to build a staff housing for the Sub-Rural Health Centre in Salpala Village in Chaungzon Township, Mawlamyine District, Mon State in the 2020-2021 Financial Year. Deputy Minister for Health and Sports Dr Mya Lay Sein replied that there was no budget for the project for 2020-2021FY, but a budget to build the staff housing will be requested to add to the 2021-2022FY.
MP U Ye Htut from Sagaing Region constituency 5 said that privately-owned print media have suffered financial losses, and made a question how the government will support privately-owned print media. The Deputy Minister for Information U Aung Hla Tun replied that print media across the world also suffered a downturn because of popularity of online media.
The Deputy Minister said that there are 321 online news agencies in Myanmar and many people are getting news and information via online media. He said that to finance operations of print media, they rely on advertisement incomes and the revenues earned by selling newspapers. He pointed out that both the readers and the advertisers have switched to online media, and that’s why print media have difficulty to survive. He said that the incomes of state-run newspapers published by the Ministry of Information have also sharply dropped amid popularity of online media.
He said that COVID-19 pandemic has also created enormous challenges for print media across the world because of COVID-19- related measures including social distancing. On the other hand, “online media” (a) “new media” have experienced a surge in popularity, said the Deputy Minister.
The Deputy Minister said that several media outlets across the world are now shifting online. Currently, Myanmar’s state-run media under the Ministry of Information operate both print media and online media/new media, said the Deputy Minister.
In response to the question raised by MP U Ye Htut from Sagaing Region constituency 5, the Deputy Minister suggested that the only practical way to ensure survival and development of Myanmar media sector is that media outlets need to systematically transform into online media/new media rather than trying to survive as print media, which is experiencing a severe downturn.
The Deputy Minister also pointed out the differences between printing business and media business. He said that printing is just a platform for media business. But many news outlets have switched to a new platform: online media. The one experiencing a severe downturn is printing business, not media business, said the Deputy Minister.
In response to a statement made by an MP who insisted there should not be state-run media, the Deputy Minister said that Myanmar’s newly-developed democracy is just 10 years old and news business is just seven years old. The Deputy Minister pointed out that the country is facing many challenges during democratic transition, so state-run media should exist to some extent.
The Deputy Minister said that private media should be nurtured, and state-run media will gradually reduce its role when private media sector becomes stronger. The Deputy Minister claimed that state-run media exist in every nation, including even major democratic nations, in some form or other.
The Deputy Minister explained about Public Service Media financed by the state, but the state does not interfere in the media policy. He stressed that state-run media are needed to some extent during democratic transition.
The Deputy Minister said that the Information Ministry, in cooperation with other stakeholders including relevant ministries, NGOs and experts, will take efforts to resolve challenges encountered during democratic transition.
MP U Mya Min Swe from Magway Region constituency 9 raised a question related to appointment of Staff Officers in township offices of Information and Public Relations Department (IPRD) and appointment of Assistant Director in district offices of IPRD. The question was replied by the Deputy Minister for Information.
MP U Ye Htut from Sagaing Region constituency 5 asked a question how the government will support print media before they are transformed into digital media. The Deputy Minister replied that the Ministry is exerting efforts to help them in some ways, for example, by cooperation with relevant stakeholders to provide special loans as COVID-19 relief measures and to reduce taxes.
MP U Kyaw Kyaw Win from Rakhine State constituency 8 raised a question related to land compensations for confiscated lands in Bawdikone and Kanthaya villages in Maungtaw Township. The question was replied by Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Hla Kyaw.
MP U Hla Oo from Sagaing Region constituency 4 raised a question whether the government has a plan to build an ancient city cultural museum in Amyint Ancient City in Chaung-U Township, Monywa District, Sagaing Region. The MP also raised another related question whether the government has a plan to put up a statue of Minn Lak Wah in the ancient city. The question was replied by Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture U Kyi Min.
Deputy Minister for Office of the Union Government U Tin Myint replied two questions raised by MP U Maung Kyaw Zan from Rakhine State constituency 9.
MP U Tin Wai from Taninthayi Region constituency 6 raised questions related to fish meal factories in the industrial zone in Inlemyine Ward in Myeik Taung Village in Myeik in Taninthayi Region. Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Hla Kyaw replied the questions.
During the parliamentary session, Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than announced that Pyithu Hluttaw officially agrees the bill amending the 1959 Defence Services Act approved by and sent from Amyotha Hluttaw.
Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than also sought the assembly’s opinion on the report on Amyotha Hluttaw Farmers’ Affairs Committee’s activities from 1 March 2018 to 30 August 2020, and then the assembly unanimously approved it.
Similarly, Amyotha Hluttaw Speaker Mahn Win Khaing Than sought the assembly’s opinion on the report on activities from 1 March 2018 to 13 August 2020 of Amyotha Hluttaw Committee on Immigration and Myanmar Internal and Migrant Workers, and then the assembly unanimously approved it.
Government’s Guarantees, Pledges and Undertaking Vetting Committee Chairperson U Thein Swe, and Public Complaints Committee member U Htein Win submitted the reports of their respective committees.
The 12th-day meeting of 17th regular session of the Second Amyotha Hluttaw will be convened on 27 August.
Aung Ye Thwin (Translated by Maung Maung Swe)