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IFJ concerned that new media law may fail to ensure press freedom

(IFJ/IFEX) - February 10, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Burma Media Association (BMA) in its concerns that Burma's proposed new media law may not guarantee freedom of media as the government promised.

The new media law, drafted by the Ministry of Information's Press Scrutinization and Registration Department (PSRD), was introduced in January at a media workshop jointly organized by Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association and Singapore-based Asia Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC).

Despite inviting local journalists, foreign-based Burmese journalists and journalists from Asian countries to the two-day event, the participants were not given the opportunity to thoroughly discuss the substance of the law. According to Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Mr. Tint Swe, the Deputy Director General of the PSRD, only presented the Table of Contents of the draft law but no details of the law itself.

Sources close to the PSRD told the BMA that the draft law was adapted from the repressive Printers and Publishers Registration Act enacted after the 1962 military coup.

"It is important that any new media laws introduced by the government of Burma improve press freedom, and provide greater freedom and security for journalists", IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

"The media laws need to represent a fresh start for the media environment in Burma. They should be drafted to ensure they are best suited to the modern media context and are able to protect press freedoms.

The IFJ joins the BMA in urging the government of Burma abolish the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act, and associated laws designed to restrict freedom of expression, such as the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, Article 505/B of the Criminal Code and the 1923 Official Secrets Act."

Although Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index 2011 ranked Burma a slightly better position (169th) than in 2010 (174th) as a result of political reforms including partial amnesties and a reduction in prior censorship, the country remains largely under the control of an authoritarian government run by former members of the military junta assuming new positions as civilian politicians. A number of journalists still remain in prison as of the start of 2012.

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