Monday, August 21, 2017

‘Pyithu Khit’ marks an unlikely two years

‘Pyithu Khit’ chief editor U Pe Myint speaks at the June 10 ceremony. Thiri / The Myanmar Times‘Pyithu Khit’ chief editor U Pe Myint speaks at the June 10 ceremony. Thiri / The Myanmar Times

Media industry figures and politicians last week marked the second anniversary of the founding of Pyithu Khit (The People’s Age), an increasingly influential politics-focused news weekly.

The event, held at Yuzana Garden Hotel on July 10, included a seminar on freedom of the press that featured speeches from leading journalists and politicians, including 88 Generation leader Ko Min Ko Naing.

Since its establishment, Pyithu Khit has focused on political news and features, a previously neglected genre in Myanmar.

Pyithu Khit chief editor U Pe Myint told the audience that he and the six other founders did not expect the publication to last two years when it launched before the 2010 election.

“We just wanted to write about politics but then we had to consider whether this would be possible or not. If we couldn’t publish views and articles without restraint, readers wouldn’t be very interested,” U Pe Myint said.

“The intention of publishing this journal is to inform the public about the political situation in Myanmar and in particular analysis about politics.”

Pyithu Khit shot to prominence in 2011 after getting approval to publish Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s article, “Letter from Burma”, and is well-regarded by both readers and journalists.

The anniversary and discussion about press freedom came as the Ministry of Information finalises a draft law to submit to parliament that it says will end censorship.

But Maung Wuntha, a veteran journalist, said journalists face restrictions when gathering news, find it difficult to confirm facts, have to send content to the censorship board and do not have laws to protect them, he said.

Other speakers included editor and former political prisoner U Zaw Thet Htwe, who talked about the problems associated with freedom of press, and U Kyaw Zwa Moe from the Chiang Mai-based Irrawaddy, who discussed journalism ethics, while Ko Min Ko Naing talked about freedom of the press and democracy.

“When the older people talk about the freedom of press in their younger days, just the thought of it makes our mouth water. We require courageous journalists who can work for the people. When we look at courageous journalists, most of them had to struggle,” Ko Min Ko Naing said.

U Zaw Thet Htwe stressed the need for legislation to enshrine freedom of speech.

“I was so worried when I realised that the freedom of press that we have got is just because of the political changes but not because of media laws being approved by the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw,” he said.