Media Freedom & pragmatic views

  • By Myint Kyaw (Zalun)

The author of this article turns around and looks back into the conservative and conventional media practices of the world community that have existed on this planet for many centuries. The people of the world, the nations and the governments have been handling the well-designed tools such as the media control, the media policy and the media application in one way or another for the nation’s functional system, the national interest, the sovereignty, and the policy strategy.
All the talks with wide ranging topics about the media freedom are in the forefront and continuing while the information technology is on the rise. Since the issue is growing without intervention and that all the people could participate in this trend which is compounded with the affordable and cheap devices in this media context, the buzz word “media freedom” is now at the center stage that needs an agreeable and satisfying solution.
Whenever we talked about the media freedom, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued on 10 December 1948 comes into my mind.

In article (19), it is mentioned as follows.

“Article 19: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Indeed, this specification is to be accepted, uphold and abide by. Along with the freedom, the concept of taking accountability and responsibility come together in finding solution and that many nations in the world today embrace this trend and work on it.
Democracy and Media
In the democratic nations, the citizens must have the ways and means to receive reliable information in time so that they could decide and choose whatever they deemed fit. All the activities and the works of the democratic government must be provided through the media to the public for evaluation and assessment without fail.
The people have the right to evaluate and assess over the accuracy, rightness and authenticity of information being provided by the government officials through the media. The main role and obligation of the media is not to put the burden and anxiety towards the public. The responsible officials for providing information from the government departments must never ever attach and mixed up themselves either as enemy or friend with the outside media personnel. Releasing correct information is the main responsibility for them.
Covering up or unveiling of information with ill intent over good news or bad news is a way of going back into the past, and that such way of handling information must be avoided by all means.
Either for worrisome circumstances or other undesirable perception, the release of news must never be an impediment or hindrance. The out flow of information must never be entrusted into particular hands of wrong persons to avoid unnecessary news censorship, which could lead to the needless thirst of news by the public.
All the matters must be handled by the skillful persons, professionals and responsible people so that the proper channel for solution of media problems could be opened up to solve at the earliest. It is equal and corresponding to the realization and recognition of democrvatic norm.

Media and relevant laws
The first step of media freedom is the freedom of expression and also in parallel with the interpretation of never hurting others or environment. In the notion of common desire, the media freedom is in line with the fundamental law and media law, and that this point is very much important. It is very imperative that the government, the organization or the person must issue true and correct information, not the adulterated or tainted news. It is the foundation of media freedom.
In Myanmar, the media freedom has been mentioned in the 2008 Constitution as follows.
354. Every citizen shall be at liberty in the exercise of the following rights, if not contrary to the laws, enacted for Union security, prevalence of law and order, community peace and tranquility or public order and morality:
a. to express and publish freely their convictions and opinions;
b. to assemble peacefully without arms and holding procession;
c. to form associations and organizations;
d. to develop their language, literature, culture they cherish, religion they profess, and customs without prejudice to the relations between one national race and another or among national races and to other faiths.
Direct and indirect laws in connection with the media are enacted as follows.
(1) Printing and Publishing Law and Printing and Publishing By-law.
(2) News Media Law and News media By-law.
(3) Television and Video Law and Video Business By-law.
(4) Motion Picture Law.
(5) Broadcasting Law.
(6) Burma Official Secret Act.
(7) Myanmar Communication Law.
(8) Electronic Communication Law.
In today’s age, every person is using news media to get information and they themselves have become news providers. Therefore, all the relevant laws have become important and necessary to know in details, and also to comply with.

The position of media persons in the world
Since most of the media persons are rushing upfront and concentrating just to get the information only, they knowingly or inadvertently breach the existing laws, regulations and ethics, and therefore, resulted with the rising arrests and detentions with punishment and sentences across the world.
According to the index released in December 2017, total of (262) media persons were arrested in one single year. More than half of the arrested persons were the media persons from Turkey, Egypt and the People’s Republic of China.
According to the press release of Reporters without Borders, it was learnt that out of 180 countries in the world there are 16 countries that have been considered and ranked as the most independent media and that all of them are from European countries. Free media with satisfactory status are counted in 33 countries and they are from Europe and Latin American countries. There are 59 countries all over the world where the media sectors are being handled with much caution. Seriously restricted media sectors are found in 59 countries in Asia and Africa. Heavily controlled and severely constraint media sectors are found in 21 countries in Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In the year 2017, a total of 81 journalists were killed due to various reasons across the globe. They were killed in Mexico, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, India, the Philippine, Pakistan, Nigeria, Somalia, and Honduras, according to International Federation of Journalists.
On 15 January 2018, author Elena has pointed out the names of 10 wealthiest media moguls in the world at it was learnt. Roy Firestone is an American sports commentator and journalist earns US$ 1.5 million; Ian Halperin is a Canadian investigative journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker gets US$ 2 million; Lauren Susan Green is the Chief Religion Correspondent for the Fox News Channel makes US$ 2.1 million; Christopher “Chris” Rose is an American sportscaster for the MLB Network and NFL Network collects US$ 3 million; Lisa Marie Joyner is an American entertainment reporter and television host gathers US$ 4 million; Milo Yiannopoulos is a British political commentator, publisher, celebrity, blogger, journalist and author acquires US$ 4 million; Jackie Guerrido is a Puerto Rican television weather forecaster draws US$ 10 million; James Daniel May is an English television presenter and journalist earns US$ 15 million; earning of Cyber Expert Reporter Julian Assange has not been mentioned; and that CNN Reporter and Writer Anderson Cooper grabs US$ 100 million. Their names were mentioned as wealthiest media moguls in the world.

Media situation in the neighboring countries
It is necessary to have a look over the media situation of the neighboring countries.
In India, there are many media outlets that are catering television, radio, movie, newspaper, magazine and Internet based media. As there is no restriction on cross media ownership in India, the media companies and the media organizations have controlled and manipulated over the media market.
There are many regular newspapers, journals, radio stations, TV channels, but all the public media are controlled and manipulated by companies and organizations. The large and outsized media companies in India always lashed out and refused the restriction imposed over their possession and ownership of their empire.
In the Peoples’ Republic of China, the Radio and TV sector is under the government control from 1949 to 1980, and then it become independent media when the country embarked into economic reform. Media related government organizations were being established and the media works are carried out under their supervision.
In September 2016, the Ministry of Information and Communication of Thailand has been renamed and reformed as the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society. It checked and watched over the international media with care, and that the news on the Thai Royal Family needs to seek approval before release to the public.
Under the paragraph (65) of the 2005 Criminal Procedure Law of Lao PDR, any person in violation or breach over the sovereignty of the nation, tarnishing the image of the country with intent, and the appalling writing of the nation is liable to be punished with fine or 15 years imprisonment. Total of (32) TV stations and (44) radio stations are all government owned enterprises, and (24) newspapers are the mouth piece of the government.
The Ministry of Information is being established in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and it has been working and overseeing in connection with the laws, procedures, regulations and management tasks of the news media, movie production and information matters. The Ministry undertakes the responsibility with regards to the information of the government which is being released to the local and foreign media and also to the public. In Bangladesh, the online newspapers and the news portal programs are developing with great force.
With regards to the issue over the media freedom, it would be much decent and wise to talk about and assess in the wider context of various situations happening across the world and in the region instead of making center of attention narrowly on our own country. Looking on the transformation over the flow of news information, the media sectors of the neighboring countries and their consequences should be taken into consideration in details to take hold and grasp the pragmatic views.
The author would like to wrap up that with these approaches in mind, it is to help the people through the media and build democracy with the strength of the people.


Translated by UMT of Ahlon

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