The third of May is World Press Freedom Day, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993 and supported by the UNESCO General Assembly. An event has been held in Myanmar every year since 2012, and yesterday it was held at the Chatrium Hotel.
Ambassadors from foreign embassies, resident representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNESCO, Myanmar media organizations, civil societies and invited persons attended the event.
In his opening speech to the event, Union Minister for Information Dr. Pe Myint said the theme for World Press Freedom Day 2017 “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” is very appropriate for Myanmar and observed that it was created to reflect the world’s international situation.
He said the present world is unjust and not peaceful, while the societies are non-inclusive, to which the role of the media is to help develop it into a peaceful, just world with inclusive societies. He added that in the country today, individuals and organisations who wish well for the country and the government are all aiming toward a peaceful, just and inclusive society.
In the World Press Freedom Index published annually by Reporters without Borders (RSF), Myanmar was 169 out of 179 countries in 2011-2012. In 2013, 2014 and 2015, it was at 151, 145 and 144, respectively.
Myanmar press freedom ranking jumps, reaching No 3 in ASEAN, just behind Indonesia and the Philippines, according to the latest survey by Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF).
By 2016, it was at 143, making gradual progress. This year, the progress was 12 more levels to 131. “Having achieved 131 out of 180 countries isn’t much to be proud about, but it is progress that we can be happy about”, the minister said. “We will not be satisfied with this and will cooperate with local and international organisations to support the advancement of the freedom of journalists and media organizations”.
Ms. Renata Dessallien, the UNDP Resident Representative, read the UN Secretary General’s World Press Freedom Day 2017 message which said journalists go to the most dangerous places to give voice to the voiceless and need leaders to defend a free media that is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation. Ms. Renata Dessallien said media freedom in Myanmar is progressing well and last year AP in Myanmar received its first Pulitzer prize.
It also stepped up to 131 in the World Press Freedom Index, jumping 12 steps, but there are 130 countries ahead of it and much need to be done.
“Myanmar has reached a certain stage in media freedom and it is very important in the transition to democracy”, Ms Dessallien said.
The UNESCO Resident Representative Ms. Min Jeong Kim then read the message of the UNESCO Director General.
Minister Counsellor Mr. Johan Hallenborg of the Swedish Embassy said that the news media must not use their skill for hate-speech and need to be straightforward.
Later, representatives from the Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Journalists Association, Myanmar Journalist Network, Myanmar Journalists Union, Burma News International (BNI) and National Management Degree College (News and Media Department) read their World Press Freedom Day messages.