August 20, 2016

Welcoming the Renaissance of Public Newspapers in Myanmar

Tommy Pauk

It is learned that the newly appointed Union Minister for Information Dr.Pe Myint has urged the state media to embrace public-facing content in meeting with departmental officials and correspondents from the state-owned daily newspapers held in Yangon on 3rd of April, 2016. We, Myanmar citizens, also noted that the Minister for Information has stressed the need for the dailies to act as intermediaries between the government and the public. Therefore, those who are involved in state media and freelance journalists ought to serve the country as reliable, respectable and helpful newspapermen.
Unfortunately, the public dailies have been under the yoke of successive regimes for 54 years in Myanmar. The regimes had used all public newspapers (both Myanmar version and English version)  as their own propaganda tools. The Working People’s Daily (English version), The Guardian
(English version), Loketha Pyi Thu Ne Zin (Myanmar version), Kye Mon (Myanmar version) and Myanma Ahlin (Myanmar version)  are the state-owned daily newspapers published in Myanmar. The Botataung (The Vanguard) Daily (Myanmar version), The Guardian (English version), Loketha Pyi Thu Ne Zin (Myanmar version) are no longer in existence. Myanma Ahlin daily was established in 1914 and the Mirror daily was established in 1957. Some of them were private-owned but they were nationalized by the Revolutionary Council Government in 1963. The sexagenarians and nonagenarians in Myanmar still remember the quality and freedom of press dominant in the Mirror daily, Myanma Ahlin daily and The Guardian. We like to read them because well-versed editors, contributors and freelancers had made concerted efforts in disseminating knowledge, information and creating the entertaining columns for satirical cartoon on politics, economy and management etc. These newspapers especially highlighted the public content and frank public comments on the government, politics and country’s economy. However, the period between 1962 and the end of March 2016, the citizens have been disappointed with the features on propaganda. The so-called policies of the news and periodicals laid down by successive regimes had hindered the real public comments from appearing in the public newspapers. Due to lack of public interest and trust, the role of public dailies declined.
Nevertheless, due to political changes, the public dailies have now escaped from that abhorrent yoke of regimes. We, the people of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, have noticed that the state-owned public daily newspapers started to open up the freedom of expression for the public in their dailies on the 1st of April 2016 as soon as the people’s government was formed according to the constitution. In other words, they turned to the appearance of real public newspapers that we have desired for fifty four years. Not only state-owned public daily newspapermen but also those who wish to submit the true public emotions, feelings, complaints and opinions in the state-owned dailies can describe or express straight away in the dailies. We do take interest and concentrate on public newspapers while we rely on social media on a regular basis. The formation of people’s government was given a rousing welcome by the public recently. The guidelines of the newly appointed Minister for Information and the change of the policies for state-owned dailies are highly appreciated by all the citizens of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Previously, people in Myanmar used to start reading the obituary column in the public news paper and read some edited foreign news or limited local news. Even the local news events that had happened in Myanmar were lately described in the dailies. Mostly, the news items were selected or published on commendation of the project or tasks or the capacity of higher rank public officials of the regimes. In reality, the public did not know the true news or detailed clarification of projects or public officials appointed by the regimes. During the period of over fifty years, public did not trust the news which favored the governments or fawned over the government officials. The public dailies were unwillingly acting as the government propaganda tools. Actually, those journalists or editors who had worked in the public newspapers were not allowed to freely express their own opinions or perspectives for the sake of the interest of the public. The editors and  journalists of the public newspapers are obligated to describe or express or publish the articles or news according to so-called principles laid down by dictators. The state-owned public newspapers were running by public funds indeed. The news prints were imported from abroad. However, this print media has been used and the editorial staff had to obey the dictators and their minions rather than the public or the readers. Otherwise, the pressmen or editors were prone to be fired or jailed. In those days, the writings of editors were found to be obviously constrained. They did not have the right to write or express their own views on behalf the general public and under the stressful atmosphere. As a consequence, the editors could not utilize or sharpen their professional career, losing the freedom of expression. They were not authorized to criticize the bad conduct, mismanagement, inefficiency, bribery and corruption committed by the government staff. The editors’ views, opinions, perspectives were always defensive about the successive dictators and their handpicked public officials. The operations of public newspapers were under the yoke of the successive dictators and the unfair censorship.
The censorship should be existent essentially for any media field in Myanmar if it protects nationalism, religious faith and own culture. Nobody likes censorship if it protects or defends a handful of oppressors and minions. As we all know that this is the new era for democratic society and we all must (government and public) make steadfast efforts to advance our nation in the world. As saying goes; “newspapers tell the history of a particular nation”, we can analyze the relations between the government and public for socio-economic development. The responsible personnel must know how well the public facing platform is established. How much freedom of expression was permitted in the public newspapers? Newspaper, being a print media must be utilized for the benefit and interest of entire people in Myanmar. Anyway, the Renaissance of Public Newspapers in Myanmar has to be warmly welcomed.


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