I attended the 5th Media conference held in Yangon very recently as an observer. Retired now, I am no longer concerned with it but I want to join the talk as I have been involved in the media career, with a view to criticizing and explaining to those present at the conference, if needed. In the midst of discussions, I raised my hand for letting me clarify cases suing journalists and media men. Yet, limited time rejected my turn.
These days there is a widely criticized matter that people go straight to courts to sue offenders as usual whenever an offense happens to them, in spite of existence of News Media Council & the promulgated News Media Law. In Section 21 of the News Media Law, it is prescribed that the aggrieved can complain firstly to the media council if a media man is considered to breach responsibility and ethic acquired in the law. Discussions were made based on pessimistic views for suing those breaching the law in courts instead of complaining to the council.
The other day I read a conclusion by a veteran journalist in a newspaper in which it said the government itself failed to abide by the news media law. Perhaps it may be connected with the above-said suits. During the conference, I had no chance to take part in the discussions. Now that I cannot flinch an inch to explain to the public noteworthy facts, I decided to write down this article. Failing that, his opinions and statements may be taken to be completely true.
I am not a legal expert. So I fail to know thoroughly laws. Yet, I feel that I am responsible for explaining the media, as far as I know, as I took part in compiling the law while serving as a departmental head. Some wrong assumptions found in the article made me write this.
In the 5th conference, one journalist disclosed that they discussed the news media law in the parliament, but Hluttaw forced the law to be enacted as desired, neglecting their submissions. It will be a great trouble if his statements were assumed to be true in people’s mind. In fact, it was totally wrong.
There were frequent meetings between the Information Ministry and media council (temporary) to compile the news media law. The final draft was submitted to the Amyotha Hluttaw on 23 August 2013 by U Phone Myint Aung, the parliamentarian.
The News Media Law (Draft) underwent the process of approval in the presence of Hluttaw Drafting Committees at different levels. Responsible officials from the ministry, Office of the Union Attorney General, the then media council took active part in the discussion, modifying it with addition, deletion, substitution of suitable words. Just after many discussions and arguments, we reached an agreed bill finally. In this way, the Hluttaw passed it into the law. What I mean is that it is the promulgated law which can mediate between legal bodies controlling the law & media men responsible to follow the law.
Any laws including the existing media law cannot be said to be totally unique. There may be some weak points. Here I want to point out a fact that we amended a wording proposed by the then media council in section 21. The original wording reads: “The aggrieved must firstly complain to the media council.” As regards this, we discussed for long before the Hluttaw Drafting Committee. Parliamentarians in the committee mostly discussed that “Is required,” the word is not suitable as it brings about the meaning of blockage of one’s opportunity and perfunctory order, thus the desire of the aggrieved should be prioritized in accord with existing laws and rules. Ultimately the Hluttaw decided to choose the word “Can complain” for “Is required to complain”, assuming that it was more appropriate. Suffice it that Parliament promulgated the law with the majority of votes in the democratic way. The ministry of information did not force the Hluttaw to enact the law.
“The aggrieved” includes ranging from individuals to groups and associations, plus governmental organizations. It is not fair to favor the media with one-sided views. Consideration for the aggrieved should be taken as well. Depending upon the disadvantages and loss on the side of the aggrieved, the person in question has a right to decide which will be done. He is capable of—staying silent without taking any responses or saying insulting words or complaining to the council or suing in courts of justice. An accusation that the government failed to abide by the media law over suing a case in the court instead of complaining to the media council is tantamount to going beyond the reasonableness. It has an alternative to decide whether to complain or sue. Evidently enough, it followed the law as prescribed in section 21 of the media law.
As for the aggrieved, he can sue the offender under the law he likes assumed to be more effective for him, without applying the news media law. This is his right. In section 25 of the bill submitted by U Phone Myint Aung, it was included “Any cases violating rights and ethics of media men working for multi-media established in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar are required to be sued under the prescription of the law.” We should consider it deeply whether rights of every individual of the citizens need restricting like this. For this, parliamentarians took it into consideration in Amyotha Hluttaw, its origin and it cancelled the first prescription. After the promulgation, the above-said prescription no longer include in it. This is an exemplary background for those who would llike to find fault with the government to keep in their minds.
Hence, it is just and fair for the aggrieved to sue their offender under the existing law, to the extent of fulfillment of his desire. Didn’t media men sue their fellow media men, apart from the cases sued by the government and the aggrieved? Didn’t the government discuss with the media council to control the weakness of media? According to my personal experience, I had ever encountered such events very often.
While I am at it, I want to explain one point in connection with the causes of such problems. Rights of media men are prescribed in sections 4,5,6,7 and 8 of the news media law with 9 facts of duties and ethics in section 9. It is of great importance not to post false news and especially to write news with care and just after careful scrutiny.
Criticisms and suggestion are quite different from defamatory ones. It is also for us not to misunderstand that authorities concerned abuse power in carrying out their routines.
The aggrieved will respond to the extent of their suffering. Freedom differs from insults, disgrace and humiliation. Abolition of this law or that law should not be claimed whenever they harm a news media man in some way or other. All kinds of cases ought to be dealt with by considering various perspectives. As a matter of fact, law is the one that controls us and our deeds. It will never ever harm us as long as we abide by it. There are a lot of media and media men which are not arrested. Why?
That is because they have been operating according their duties and ethics. Failing that, they will surely face the trial.
I have no intention to insult anyone. I am writing this to give the message to my readers about the origin of news media law and to put wrong facts conceived in the minds of some people on the right path. Of my own accord, I am writing this. My mind is void of anger, grief, bias and ill wills. Now, I am a retired person, but as a man who took part in this world I am explaining this.
In reality, no one is above the law, including media men.