U Zaw Htay highlights importance of verifying news sources, rationalization in dealing with drug cases
In a regular bi-weekly press conference held at the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday, Director-General U Zaw Htay, spokesperson from the the Office of the President, explained about the meeting between the President and the Myanmar Press Council – (MPC) held on the same day and the activities of the Drug Activity Special Complaint Department formed under the Office of the President.
Importance of verifying news and sources
U Zaw Htay said when the MPC members took their oath at the Presidential Palace, the President delivered an address that spoke on the code of conduct for media personnel and he also discussed the media’s role in the democratic transition.
“The President’s Office has sent a notification to MPC because in some news articles they have cited the source as ‘a source close to the President’s Office’. Citing unnamed sources can become problematic.”
“The President discussed this issue with the MPC today. There is a code of conduct for media personnel. We asked them how many sources are needed to relay a news article. They replied that some departments cite two sources, while some departments try to verify the authenticity of the source. We discussed ways to increase verification on news sources.”
“We also discussed the news source contributor’s right to respond and the media’s duty to include it in the news. The MPC discussed about conducting training for the rising number of citizen journalists on social media platforms and how the MPC can disseminate the code of conduct to them, in line with the News Media Law.”
“The first thing we told them is to verify the news source for important news such as those relating to the President and the State Counsellor. Second, we asked them to inform relevant information departments that we will answer and clarify any questions related to the President and the State Counsellor. There are registered correspondents at the Presidential Palace who can be contacted through their chat group and they will reply in a timely manner.”
“Third, we told them all news related to the President and the State Counsellor and their offices have a significant political effect within the country and abroad. Hence, if false or unverified news relating to them gets published, there will be numerous complications if we cannot resolve them in time. To prevent that, we told them to inform the informational departments to contact the Presidential Palace first. Ask us to verify or explain the facts. We requested them to be extra diligent on this matter.”
Rationalization in dealing with drug cases
Next, U Zaw Htay talked about the Drug Activity Special Complaint Department and expounded on a drug report concerning Bogale Township.
“Some news and social media have shared about the drug report incident in Bogale Township. We received a report that a family of pepper sauce sellers in that township was secretly selling illegal drugs. But when police searched the house, they didn’t find any drugs. Some reports said the family suffered grievances. The officials concerned said it was on orders from the Office of the President.”
“We reviewed the case, which can be traced back to 2 July. We received a direct email complaint regarding the Bogale Township family and we handed it over to the Ministry of Home Affairs in the same month. They conducted the search in November. This drug activity complaint department was opened to effectively handle largely uncontrollable drug incidents. We directly take care of handing over of cases and issuing directions so that no loss is incurred for all parties concerned.” “This is personally handled by the President’s senior officials and then relayed to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The main intention of the drug complaint department mechanism is to apprehend large-scale drug dealers and drug lords. The home affairs ministry also formed task forces for this endeavour.”
“Taking this case as an example, there were some things that needed discussing. First, the drug complaint letters need to be based on actual facts and contain as much detail as possible. We’ve set guidelines to protect the anonymity and confidentiality of the letter’s composer. We want people’s suspicions on this to be removed. Even the home affairs ministry doesn’t know who sent the complaint.We kindly request the people to send us authentic, detailed facts as we have these security protocols in place for the complaints.” “Second, we want to prioritize large-scale drug cases and cases that regional authorities are incapable or unwilling to handle. Therefore, we want to make sure there are no ownerless cases and stalled or dead-end investigations.”
“Third, I want to address the fact that some said it is done on the orders of the Office of the President. The media and civil servants have a code of conduct. Armed personnel also have guidelines on interacting with regular civilians. We want care to be taken from the grassroots level so that there are no misunderstandings.”
“What I want to say is, if a complaint was filed because of some form of animosity on another person, then a proper apology should be issued to the people affected. This is the right of the people. Even if it was done in accordance with the law, the relevant security forces need to communicate effectively if any misconduct had occurred. We don’t want them to haughtily answer that it was all done on the orders of the Office of the President.” “If they say it was done because the line of information was lost, then we have to point out that the report was handed over in July and the actual investigation was conducted in November. This is not coherent. We want to sincerely request the public to understand the situation and to provide cooperation. We request the security forces to adhere to their code of conduct as well.”
Director-General U Zaw Htay then answered to questions raised by the attending journalists. —MNA (Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)