PR head claims access to information improved
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.