PR head claims ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion im­proved

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - HTOO THANT thanhtoo@mm­times.com – Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

Me­dia and Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion of­fi­cials squab­bled over govern­ment trans­parency at a work­shop yes­ter­day, with jour­nal­ists call­ing for spokes­peo­ple to have more au­thor­ity.

DE­SPITE clam­our­ing from the pub­lic and the me­dia about lack of ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion from govern­ment of­fi­cials, the situation has greatly im­proved, the coun­try’s ringmaster of pub­lic re­la­tions said yes­ter­day.

U Maung Pe, di­rec­tor general of the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion’s Pub­lic Re­la­tions De­part­ment, said at a work­shop that he hopes mu­tual trust be­tween the press and govern­ment spokes­peo­ple con­tin­ues to grow stronger.

But as the Myan­mar Press Coun­cil’s U Zay Yar Hlaing pointed out, only state-run me­dia seems to get un­fet­tered ac­cess to govern­ment in­for­ma­tion. He noted that per­haps spokes­peo­ple should hold di­rec­tor-level po­si­tions. As The Myan­mar Times is not alone in ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, many of the govern­ment’s cur­rently ap­pointed spokes­peo­ple claim to lack au­thor­ity to com­ment when con­tacted.

“A spokesper­son does not need to hold the high­est po­si­tion but it is im­por­tant to get cor­rect in­for­ma­tion,” U Zay Yar Hlaing said. A deputy di­rec­tor from one min­istry who agreed to speak un­der the con­di­tion of anonymity said civil ser­vants would like to speak more freely, but he blamed the low qual­ity of re­porters for pre­vent­ing such an ex­change.

“We also want to give in­for­ma­tion to the pri­vate me­dia. But we of­ten find that they do not write what we tell them,” he said.

Deputy per­ma­nent sec­re­tary of the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Live­stock and Ir­ri­ga­tion U Myo Tint Tun, who is also a spokesper­son, said of­fi­cials pre­fer re­spond­ing by email or fax, rather than over the tele­phone.

Myan­mar Press Coun­cil vice chair U Aung Hla Tun said that it is nec­es­sary for jour­nal­ists to have a good re­la­tion­ship with the other three pil­lars.

“It is in­con­ve­nient to get ac­cess to cor­rect in­for­ma­tion if the spokes­peo­ple are not will­ing to co­op­er­ate,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to U Maung Pe, more op­por­tu­ni­ties to boost me­dia-govern­ment re­la­tions are forth­com­ing at the fifth an­nual Con­fer­ence on Me­dia Devel­op­ment slated for the first week of No­vem­ber.

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