Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Politicians, reporters talk election relations

Politicians  and reporters are getting together to discuss their roles and relationships as they begin to set their sights on the November elections. In the opening round of a two-day workshop yesterday, questions were raised about journalists’ experience, partiality and coverage.

U Zayyar Hlaing, editor of Maw Kun (Archive) magazine, who led a panel discussion in the morning session, said the aim was to build a relationship between the parties and the media.

“The election is not only for big parties, but also for small and ethnic parties. Their voices should be heard in media. We in the media need to write about the parties even-handedly, regardless of their size,” he said, adding that only with unbiased and comprehensive information could voters make well-informed decisions about how to vote.

“Genuine media were missing from the scene for more than 50 years. We need to discuss media literacy for political parties and for the people as a whole. The dominance of big parties in the media is also a big concern,” he said.

U Soe Myint, managing director and editor-in-chief of Mizzima Media Group, discussed the challenges faced by the media and the parties. “Election experience is scanty among reporters because we have no experience of free and fair elections. Even in 1990, the media’s role was limited,” he said.

“Coverage by print media is limited, and the domestic broadcasting sector is controlled by the government. Our concern is whether the state-run media will be free and fair in presenting the profiles of candidates and parties.”

One participant suggested that the domestic media should cooperate in setting up a media unit in every state or regional capital to provide the widest range of electoral information.

U Zayyar Hlaing said the impartiality of reporters covering politics was emerging as a big question in the workshop, as impartial news reporting was the most difficult part of journalism.

“Most reporters have political opinions, but these should not colour their reporting,” said U Soe Myint.

U Kyaw Win, a communications officer for the Yangon branch of the Karen Democratic Party, said the media’s representation of politics was not perfect yet. “We have seen some progress, but there are few reporters or newspapers media who write 100 percent impartially,” he told The Myanmar Times.

U Yar Zar Soe, communications officer for the Dawei Nationalities Party, said most mainstream media covered only the big parties. “Small and ethnic parties’ news is hardly to be seen,” he said.

Government guarantees of security for reporters and the electoral process were essential for the conduct of free and fair elections, participants said.

“We cannot rule out the possibility of violence during the election. Recent examples in Letpadan have shown that reporters are still being threatened while they are covering issues,” said U Soe Myint, referring to the brutal attack on student protesters, monks and journalists by police on March 10.

The second day of the workshop, today, includes officials from Union Election Commission. The workshop, arranged by the Danish Institute for Parties and Democracy (DIPD) in collaboration with the Myanmar Press Council (Interim), is being attended by journalists, editors and communications officers from parties.