Myanmar Consolidated Media
Education feature story
60th Anniversary of Indonesia~Myanmar

Journalists allowed to attend hluttaw sessions: government

By Shwe Yinn Mar Oo
Auguet 15 - 21, 2011

JOURNALISTS from domestic and foreign media will be permitted to cover next week’s hluttaw sessions, the head of the government’s new spokesperson unit confirmed last week.

The move has been welcomed by journalists, who say it could help increase transparency and trust in the new parliamentary system. Coverage of the first sessions, held from January to March, was based on reports from state media and interviews with parliamentarians.

Information Minister U Kyaw Hsan, leader the Union Government’s Spokespersons and Information Team, said at an August 12 press conference in Nay Pyi Taw that journalists would be allowed to cover the hluttaw sessions, which are to begin on August 22, but would need to cooperate with his team.

“We will make arrangements to make sure that representatives from both foreign news agencies and local journals and magazines can cover the news at the forthcoming hluttaw sessions,” he said.

“The respective authorities will help the journalists working in the hluttaws to get the information they want. But the journalists also need to show self-discipline.”

Ma Hla Hla Htay, correspondent for news agency AFP, said she welcomed the government’s initiative.

“I am very glad to know that and welcome the opportunity to attend this event; we have all been hoping we can cover it. I think if our editors from abroad were also allowed to cover it, it would be better in terms of transparency,” Ma Hla Hla Htay said, adding that the State Peace and Development Council had cited security as the main reason for not allowing journalists to cover the first sessions.

Ko Thiha Thwe, correspondent for Japanese broadcaster NHK, said it was a “very positive step” that could build trust between the media and the new government.

He said agencies had already been sent invitation letters and told to submit the biographies of journalists that would be covering the sessions.

“Previously we heard there might be some limitations … but the minister said at the press conference that there would be no restrictions on who can attend. That could change later, of course,” he said.

He said it was not clear what journalists would be permitted to do during the sessions, however.

“I’m expecting some photo opportunities, for example of the parliament convening, but I think it’s unlikely we’ll be able to interview representatives immediately after the sessions finish,” he said. “It will be the very first time for us so everything will be new and it’s too early to say exactly what will happen.”

The surprise decision was flagged in state media on August 12 in a report on a coordination meeting for holding the second hluttaw sessions. The meeting, held in Nay Pyi Taw on August 11, was chaired by Pyithu Hluttaw Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann.

The Minister for Information and his deputy, U Soe Win, “submitted reports on information works and preparations for correspondents and journalists from foreign news agencies based in the nation and local media to attend the sessions”.

The second regular sessions of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw are to begin in Nay Pyi Taw on August 22.