Young Myanmar journalists joined their Thai counterparts at the Nation Multimedia Group headquarters yesterday to chart out plans for historic future cooperation.
Led by Dr Than Htut Aung, chairman and CEO of Myanmar’s Eleven Media Group, the visitors and NMG staff discussed website and print joint ventures that would extend the reach of news inside Myanmar to the outside world as well as the English-speaking communities in that country.
Dr Htut Aung sees a new era dawning in his home country after decades of western isolation and economic sanctions. He is cautiously optimistic about his country’s political future and confident that although Myanmar has lost generations of journalists, the current crop working for his media group is well equipped and motivated when it comes to reinforcing journalism in his motherland.
Cooperation with NMG is aimed at creating the most comprehensive English-language website on Myanmar’s current affairs, as well as business, lifestyle, culture, tourism and information technology, among other topics of interest. Both media groups are also planning to launch in Myanmar an English-language weekly with a view to turning it into a daily in due course.
Dr Htut Aung, in an interview with The Nation, said he hopes positive changes will continue in this country, despite the difficulties in reviving the rule of law as well as a good and efficient justice system.
He pointed out that Myanmar had held its first by-elections in decades in April this year and ushered in a new chapter in its domestic politics. The opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi won 42 seats in Myanmar’s 668-member Parliament. While the Opposition is still far smaller than the establishment’s Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), which controls the rest of Parliament, pro-democracy observers hope the next general election in 2015 will lead the country towards a genuine democratic regime with NLD and USDP being the two major parties.
“A new parliament, the mass media and the general public will have a crucial role to play in restoring the rule of law in the country. People will rally and protest if there is no rule of law. We also need to have press and other mass media freedom [to help ensure the rule of law exists]. Right now, there is still no rule of law in the current government. The hard-liners still want to control the media by enacting the new press council law which is unacceptable as they plan to control us via their proxies in journalism,” said the independent Eleven Media chairman.
Another big issue facing Myanmar today is corruption and cronyism in which, Htut Aung says sarcastically, “Myanmar is currently a world champion”. In his opinion, this issue must be tackled at the highest level of government, starting from the top leaders, ministers, and senior civil servants.
“Once corruption and cronyism are reduced, the gap between the rich and poor will be narrowed,” he said. After decades of western isolation and economic sanctions, another key agenda is to reform the economy as it opens up the country for foreign investment and businesses, he said.
On national reconciliation with various ethnic groups, he said, this crucial issue will take some time to resolve as 25 per cent of Myanmar’s 60-million population comes from various ethnic groups.
“The federation of these ethnic groups or a union is possible. We will bring all of them together. The army, which is our strongest institution, is not a hypocrite. The army leaders say they want change. “However, our true democracy will not happen until we have the next general election in 2015. The NLD, I think, have about three years to strengthen their human resources.
“They need a big reorganisation as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will be 71 years old by then and they need a new generation of leaders and successors,” he said.