Plans are being made to open schools that will produce international-level journalists, one of several issues discussed at the Pyithu Hluttaw meeting in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday morning.
The plans were revealed in reply to questions raised by Daw Thandar of Einme constituency. In answering her first question on plans to open a journalism school, Deputy Minister for Information U Aung Hla Tun replied that long-term and short-term plans are being drawn up to open a journalism school that will produce international-level journalists. The Myanmar Journalism Institute and Myanmar Media Development Center that are already established in Myanmar are cooperating with the effort, added the Deputy Minister.
Responding to the second question on whether there is a plan for the Myanmar Press Council to issue identity cards to journalists, the Deputy Minister replied that it is not a practical work for Myanmar Press Council to do this. The Myanmar Press Council only endorses the member cards and reporter cards issued by state recognised news media organisations – Myanmar Journalists Association (MJA), Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN), Myanmar Journalist Union (MJU), Myanmar Women’s Journalist Society (MWJS), Burma News International (BNI) and Myanmar Foreign Correspondents Club.
It also endorses the reporter identity cards issued by press media, broadcasting media and online media registered in copyright and registration division of Ministry of Information. The responsibility to issue identity and reporter cards lie in these entities and Myanmar Press Council is responsible to manage these entities so that they conduct matters ethically, said the Deputy Minister.
In regards to a question by Daw Mar Mar Khine of Thaton constituency on action to be taken against 70 cinemas that were sold to private concerns with an agreement to operate the theatres but to date haven’t done so, Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun said a total of 136 cinemas were sold to the private sector, of which 94 were agreed to be operated as a cinema. Previously, movies where shown in cinemas under a film system, but when films become scarce, movie production declined down to less than 10 movies being produced per year. For the Myanmar motion picture sector to develop, it needs to change over to a digital system, and the Ministry of Information began to drive cinemas to convert to Digital Cinema Package (DCP) starting in 2013.
Of the 94 cinemas that had to be operated as cinemas, only 14 had converted to digital system as of 13 December 2017 and five more will be converted by mid-2018, resulting in 75 cinemas that still need to be converted. While legal actions are being taken against cinemas who fail to operate as per the agreement, support is being provided to interested private businesses that want to convert to a digital system in cooperation with companies and entities that are working for motion picture sector development.
Access to news
On the question of public’s right of access to news raised by Daw Aye Mya Mya Myo of Kyauktan constituency, Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun said a list of spokespersons for each ministry were being published and was posted on the Ministry of Information web portal www.moi.gov.mm. And for the ease of people who need to contact departments and organisations, information (office works and procedures) are to be displayed prominently in the offices and also posted on internet and social media websites.
The Ministry of Information has also opened a Call Center Hotline (1883) to distribute information obtained, office procedures, work processes of other ministries, weather reports and special occurrences.
Furthermore, in order to inform the public in a democratic society about the works of the three pillars of the government by the news media, talks on increasing cooperation between the four pillars were being arranged to be conducted in Nay Pyi Taw and states and regions in coordination with the Myanmar Press Council. Arrangements are also being made to enact the Right to Information Law, explained the Deputy Minister.
Privately owned newspapers
Answering a question by U Myint Lwin of Twantay constituency on plans to support private newspapers, Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun said with the rapid progress in communication technology, online media is rapidly developing, while the print media sector declines. Since about 2018, well known global newspapers as well as many print newspapers were being totally transformed into online newspapers or the online and print newspapers were being published together.
The main reason for print media’s continued existence is selling newspapers and declining revenue from advertisement. The work scope limitation of advertisement revenues being diverted from print media to online media like broadcast and digital is also the reason. The government is learnt to be preparing to abolish the withholding tax so as to ease the burden on print newspapers from duties, commercial tax and income tax. As this can only be done with all relevant departments and ministries, the Ministry of Information could not do it alone. State-owned newspapers are not exempt and are paying taxes and duties in the same way as private newspapers, explained the Deputy Minister.
State-owned newspapers are state-owned enterprises operated with state funds and could not be run at a loss. If faced with possibilities of economic losses, methods like joint ventures will have to be adopted. State-owned newspapers could not be operated with the sole aim of making a profit, but also need to provide information and news at a cheap price. It is because of this that the newspapers were being sold at less than the printing cost by offsetting the expense with the income from advertisements. In developing countries, state-owned newspapers have the responsibility to be a bridge between the government and the people and to provide news to the people at a cheap price.
For reporters from private media to obtain departmental news conveniently and quickly, starting from 2016, discussions between the three pillars and the news media were conducted together with Myanmar Press Council all over the country. This was seen to have supported the ease in understanding one another as well as in contacting to obtain news. Spokespersons from the three pillars were assigned so that news media can contact them. Publishing of advertisement pages in Kyemon and Myanma Alinn newspaper in cooperation with private advertisement companies was stopped starting from 1 June 2016 so that private newspapers and journals could do it. News of union and state-level persons as well as departmental news and photos were also shared in a timely manner on websites so that private newspapers have the same information at the same time as the state-owned newspapers.
Arrangements for travel and accommodation for local private media was also provided in the same way as it was provided to international media. Arrangements are also made so that all have access to news. Even when there is a limitation due to location or time, arrangements are made so that all are given fair chances to attend such occasions alternatively.
The Ministry of Information recognises that the government needs to do much to meet the requirements of the private newspapers to publish freely and is doing all it can. State-owned newspapers inform the works of the government to the people and it also informs the people of news about ethnic nationals and low-interest news that people ought to know. This is the aim of the state-owned newspapers, and it is not competing with private newspapers. By standing apart in such a way, the state-owned newspapers left an opening for private newspaper to flourish, explained the Deputy Minister.
Aye Aye Thant (Myanmar News Agency)