Myanmar Deputy Information Minister Ye Htut was appointed the first spokesperson for the President's Office on Tuesday.
During the previous regime, the information minister was the leader of the government’s spokespersons team, so the appointment of the deputy minister as spokesperson instead of the minister has raised questions.
Ye Htut served as a lieutenant-colonel for the Defence Services before taking up the post of deputy director-general at the Information and Public Relations Department under the Ministry of Information. He was later promoted as the director-general of the department, which has been viewed as a propaganda machine for the military government.
Under former Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, Ye Htut was involved in carrying out the “fight media with media” policy.
When then Information Minister Kyaw Hsan was transferred to the Ministry of Cooperatives last August, President Thein Sein appointed former labour minister Aung Kyi as the new information minister and Ye Htut as the deputy minister of information.
As a regular user of Facebook, Ye Htut often shares news from the government and the military and writes his opinions through his Facebook account. He also replies to some comments on Facebook and give explanations to the readers.
Recently, he defended the government against criticisms about the finances of state-owned newspapers on his Facebook account.
Meanwhile, an account with the username Sit Aung has surfaced on Facebook using Ye Htut’s photo. As Sit Aung often writes slanderous posts about members of opposition parties – including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi – and the media, Eleven Media Group has criticised Sit Aung for not clarifying whether he is actually Ye Htut or not.
Ye Htut has publicly criticised the press council on his Facebook page, using words that seem to put pressure on the press council, such as the time he and Kyaw Min Swe, the press council’s secretary, engaged in a debate on Facebook over the issue of “spread betting” on sports news journals.
The Myanmar Press Council was reformed last September after local media protested against the core press council formed by the government a month earlier. With representatives from private-owned media, the new press council stood separately from the Ministry of Information.