Ministry of Information is a bridge between the government and the public. The ministry is discharging duties of informing, educating and entertaining the people.
The following are excerpts from interviews with Union Minister for Information Dr Pe Myint and Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun on aims and objectives of the ministry.
Dr Pe Myint, Union Minister for Information
Question: Could Your Excellency Union Minister explain policies adopted by the ministry during the second year in office of the government?
Answer: Ministry of Information has to inform, educate and entertain the people. All these three tasks are carried out by Myanma Radio and Television, Information and Public Relations Department, Printing and Publishing Department and News and Periodicals Enterprise.
Q: What are the ways and means the ministry is setting out to inform the public?
A: NPE and MRTV are the main sources of informing the public. Kyemon and Myanma Alinn dailies under NPE are state-owned dailies, and the Global New Light of Myanmar is run under joint venture with a private company.
MRTV airs news both on radio and from TV. This is the age of Information Technology which has grown rapidly. NPE is posting digital news enabling the people to know latest news in time. Moreover, in every townships, there are established IPRD offices. IPRD’s staff collect news in their areas and they also are journalists.
Arrangements are being made to combine news presenting, collecting, airing and publishing. News will be published in printed media, posted online and aired from TV and radio through Myanmar Digital News after combining the staff, sources and news from the aforementioned three departments.
As it is aiming at applying the strength of all three departments, news writing, collecting, editing and presenting will be combined. For example, news casters from MRTV are good at presenting and thus their skills can be used in MDN in terms of multimedia. The ministry is focusing on combining all departments under it and mobilizing news sources to establish a better media tool.
Q: What is a plan of the ministry to promote the role of private media?
A: Arrangements are being made for the people to be informed and for media development. As regards to dailies and journals, they are allowed to do their business independently. Currently, 400 periodicals are permitted to publish but the number appearing on the market is just 250. There are also many magazines. What I mean is that private media are also encouraged for their development.
As regard to TV, there was only one and it was MRTV. Later, Forever Group and Shwe Than Lwin companies became engaged in the business. After assuming the duties, arrangements were made to add new channels. Five firms were allowed on multi channel Playout System of MRTV. Now, Mizzima Media and DVB Media are testing its programmes.
For those who are interested, airing on radio are also allowed. Recently, Khayae FM started airing from Htantabin. If a comprehensive TV and radio law is enacted, business in TV and radio will be booming.
Q: What is the ministry’s arrangement for improvement of literary world?
A: Literature development including Myanmar literature development and increase in the number of readers in our country are the main factors for knowledge enrichment. So, we focus on it, and book festivals were held as well as the literature festivals with paper reading session. The significant work was that Theinbyu road on which PPD is located was designated as Book Road and bookstalls were allowed to open on every Saturday and Sunday. This will continue this year.
Literature improvement will attract the people and reading will surely improve knowledge of people. Book producers disclosed their difficulties saying that prices are skyrocketing for publishing a book and as a consequence, readers will not buy a book if the price is high. To overcome this difficulty, Ministry of Information consulted with other related ministries to exempt tax on periodicals and newspapers according to 2018 Tax Law. This is the indirect assistance rendered to the people.
Q: What measures are the ministry taking for increasing the number of readers, to increase the reading habit and to enhance knowledge?
A: It is said that many of the youths today are not fond of reading and the number of readers is decreasing. To increase the number of readers, it is needed to cultivate reading habit among youth. This habit is easier to cultivate in the mind of children than in adult. Therefore, children literature festivals have been held, children’s books are given and children are allowed to participate in competitions. This attracts children and they develop a good habit of reading.
Children literature attracts not only children but also their parents. Therefore, to conduct literature and other development programmes, Youth all-round Development Festival was held in Yangon University. This is combined efforts of MoI and Education Ministry, and Health and Sports Ministry and Yangon Region Government. It is also arranged to be held in Mandalay.
Research works and paper reading sessions are also carried out for literature development.
There are IPRD offices and libraries in every township. There, reading circles were established, reading associations founded. These efforts are aiming at enriching knowledge of people.
Q: Could Your Excellency tell me Myanmar literature’s sustainability?
A: Sarpay Beikman is a branch under PPD. Since before independence, pilot teams of it existed and after independence, it came into existence. It can be seen good traditions of Sarpay Beikman are re-exposed.
As Myanmar encyclopedia is published around 1950s, efforts are being made together with Tun Foundation for new edition.
Unprecedented work is to publish Myanmar Literature Selections which include 100 books and bulletins. The first volume will come out next month. New version of Myanmar encyclopedia is expected to come out this year.
Myanmar is home to 135 ethnic groups. They use their own language and literature. Some have alphabets and some verbal. They are also encouraged. paper reading sessions on literature of ethnic groups and were held in Kayin State and Shan State.
Next year, paper reading sessons of all ethnic groups will be held together with culture show.
Q: Please explain about Community Centre for the public.
A: Libraries in the respective IPRD office have been transformed into community libraries and Community Centres. The places are used not only for reading but for consultations. Arrangements are being made to transform them into places accessible by all people including children, mothers and organizations. There are some requirements for those with same interests. Although there are space and equipment difficulties, we have sponsors to render assistance to community-based activities.
For example a place with larger space will be turned into Volleyball ground, or futsal or sepeck takraw pitches and the smaller space is for table tennis. In addition to sports activities, music, art or photograph enthusiasts can gather there.
Q: Are there any plan to be known directly by government and the three pillars on people’s voice?
A: This is arranged by MoI. Reading corners are set up in literature development programmes and such topics as political, economic, social affairs and job opportunities are discussed widely and these are the places where people are exposing their feelings. This is aimed at enabling those from management circles to know the voice of the people.
Q: Regarding entertainment, what new chapters can the ministry open?
A: The major platform for entertainment is MRTV. To inform and to entertain, staff themselves are participating in the programmes and experts from outside are invited to participate in these programmes.
These programmes produce youth with creative and innovative potentials and this is aimed at possessing the spirit of peace and prosperity in building a federal union.
MRTV organized Democracy Motion Picture Week this year. Four movies depicting democracy were shot and of them, the movie – Naychi Hmar Shweyi Laung – won academy award.
Q: My last and final question is what is the measure the ministry is taking for Myanmar movie development.
A: As regard movie industry, MoI encourages development of movie industry. Arrangement is being made to establish a movie studio and a movie skills traiving school in Nay Pyi Taw. The project is implemented in cooperation with Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, Ministry of Construction, Nay Pyi Taw Council, and Motion Picture Association.
U Aung Hla Tun, Deputy Minister for Ministry of Information
Question: Could you please tell to what extent the role of media is important in Myanmar?
Answer: Media plays a very important role in our country. It is more important for us compared with other countries because the challenges faced by the country in the transition period to democracy are greater than of other countries. The events in the country attract attention of international media and community.
Cause of some major problems the country has been facing was rooted since colonial period and these problems could not be solved properly but have accelerated into complications. Democracy and freedom of press met its end in 1962 but revived in 2011 and has been growing gradually.
The term of democracy is just seven years old and media gained its freedom about five years ago. As regard media, there exists international media and domestic media in the country. Media in the country has state- and private-owned media. Media inform the events in the country to enthusiasts within and without the country.
When a policy related to a certain country is adopted in the international community, this policy is based much on the image of that country portrayed by international media. Therefore, it is important to deal systematically with international media. Both state- and private-owned media in the country have lagged far behind for half a century, Myanmar had to face and is facing difficulties in reporting its news to the world.
Q: What measures have been taken regarding media during the two years in office of the government?
A: It is better to explain what will be done in coming three years than recount the previous works.
State- and private-owned media serve as a bridge between the government and the three pillars namely legislation, administration and judiciary.
As a watchdog, media is to make healthy criticism on performances of these three pillars and inform its findings to the public. And it must report the situation of the public. That is why we acknowledge the important role of media and we are trying to improve the media as much as we can.
The most important factors for all media persons are access to information and freedom of press.
We are contacting authorities encouraging them to assign spokespersons for the respective authorities, to set focal points to answer the queries raised by media persons and to pose news not harming national security in advance on websites and social media. We conduct trainings for staff in the respective departments to deal with media and hold workshops on building mutual trust and cooperation.
Q: Could you please tell me the future plan for media development?
A: Guided Tours are arranged once in two weeks for the media persons at home and abroad to visit northern Rakhine State on which the international community put their attention much.
Standard Operation Procedure regarding media is being worked out for amendment of the law which needs to be amended and to make a new law which is needed. A press conference was held last month to explain the preparation made for repatriation of those who left for Bangladesh from northern Rakhine State. We’ll try our best for holding the next round of press conference. We also receive the international media persons who propose us to meet them.
Q: What is your message to the media world?
A: We absolutely agree emergence of independent, responsible and self-regulated media and we also understand it is not satisfactory. I would like to request all media persons to cooperate with us with patience as there are many difficulties and challenges.
By Khin Yadanar
(Translated by Wallace)