The International Press Institute opened its 65th World Congress at the Chatrium Hotel here on Friday, bringing together journalists from around the world under the theme “On the Path to a Free Media.”
Union Minister for Information U Ye Htut extending greetings at the conference, while other speakers including Mr David Kaye of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Executive Director Mr Toby Mendel of the Centre for Law and Democracy of Canada, and U Phyo Min Thein of the National League for Democracy spoke on the topic of “press freedom through laws and conventions”.
Discussions covered Myanmar’s significant development, legal support for independent media, the licensing of private dailies, abolition of press censorship, and threats of old laws to press freedom. The conference, the first of its kind to be hosted in Myanmar, saw local and foreign journalists discuss reporting on sensitive conflicts, religious sensitivities in news reporting, and the challenges print media faces in maintaining economic viability and public trust. More than 200 local and foreign journalists attended the IPI World Congress in Yangon, which will continue until 29 March.
On the sidelines of the 65th World Congress, Union Minister U Ye Htut separately met Managing Director Al Anstey of Al Jazeera (English), Programme Director Dr Andrew Dodd of Australia’s Department of Media and Communication, and Nathan Vander Klippe, Beijing bureau chief for Canada’s Globe and Mail at the same hotel.
Prior to the press congress, journalists staged a rally in front of the hotel, calling for freedom of expression, which they said was crucial to the flow of information to the people.
U Kyaw Zeyar Tun, editor of Mawkun Magazine, decried the beating and arrest of some journalists in a recent police crackdown on student protesters in Letpadan.
U Win Zaw Naing, an editor of Myitmakha news agency, said he joined the rally to spread a message to the world that freedom of the press is still repressed in the country.
Discussions at the IPI conference should mainly focus on how to provide security and safety for journalists, said Ko Ant Min Nyo, a freelance reporter.
Union Minister for Information U Ye Htut expressed his delight at the rally, saying it was proof for international delegates at the conference of media transparency in Myanmar.
The union minister recognised the concerns of correspondents over their safety, saying weaknesses concerning the Letpadan incident must be investigated.
He defended the police action in the crackdown but hinted at a review of the possible overuse of force by police.
He went on to say that journalists who boycotted the conference wasted the opportunity to ask international experts, including him, their views on the situations in the country, with the conference discussing problems facing the media in the country.