Press freedom and a high standard of media are essential for democracy

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – June 09 Scenes

MoeMaKa, June 10, 2023

Press freedom and a high standard of media are essential for democracy

In order for democracy and human rights to survive in a country, it is the responsibility of the news media to observe and criticize those with power, weapons, and financial power. To have the right to criticize, it is necessary to have press freedom. Press freedom is essential to establishing and maintaining democracy.

If you look at the contemporary history of Myanmar, it can be said that the highest period of press freedom was from 1948 after independence to 1962 before the military coup. Even during that period, there might have been restrictions under the caretaker government from 1958 to 1960. After that, from 1962 to 1970, which was called the Revolutionary Council, and then during the era of the Myanmar Socialist Party, all the freedom of the press that had been gained during the AFPFL era was abolished, and there were only a few foreign-based broadcasting stations, with almost no private media or independent media. After more than 1 month of the 8888 Uprising, private news media tried to re-emerge, and after the military coup, stricter laws and severe punishments were enacted to make them disappear again. Suffice it to say that until the end of 2012, there was no independent media in the country. The period from 2011 to the end of the 2020 election, which was later called the period of political reform in transition to democracy, saw the development of independent media.

Since around 2000, there has been a renaissance in news journals, but since it was published in the era of literary censorship, which was abolished in 2012, it cannot be said to be a period of press freedom.

In today’s Internet age, it is becoming difficult for dictators to control the Internet and news media platforms, so they are controlling them by blocking the Internet traffic, and arresting and imprisoning media reporters who write against them. Because the platform is an internet platform, except for cutting the internet, the military authorities cannot restrict or block it, but there are big threats in terms of access to information.

There may be an argument or complaint that press freedom is not independent without any background information. Of course, press freedom is naturally associated with a background goal. The freedom we mean here is freedom related to the background of justice, human rights, and equal rights, which stands for those who are powerless, unarmed, and economically incapable.

On the other hand, the press may not be free due to the fact that the stance of the news media, in other words, financial expenses depend on whom. If a news media is not owned by a political party, an armed organization, a government that has seized power, or even a big business group, but if it depends on a certain organization, then it is necessary to make public what the interests of that organization are.

The freedom of the media and the emergence and strengthening of democracy are mutually dependent. If there is democracy, there will be press freedom, and if there is press freedom, democracy will be able to emerge and strengthen.

On the other hand, it is not enough to just have press freedom, it is also necessary for the media to reach a good standard of quality. Although there is a certain degree of press freedom, when the quality of the media is low, there may be many types of media that serve politicians, political parties, armed organizations, and big business companies. If the media is not in a position to criticize voices, human rights, and people with weapons, power, and money, it will not benefit society.

In order to hold armed organizations and those in power accountable, the news media itself needs to understand these events, background events, and lessons from past history. When the news media is unable to free itself from the prejudices of politics, armed groups, big businesses, radical nationalism, and ethnic ideologies, it is still possible that the freedom of the press cannot be used effectively. If the news media does not have the basic knowledge and skills that the news media should have, it is still possible to be used by a certain organization or a certain party, and to end up being taken advantage of without knowing it.

Therefore, if we say that press freedom exists in Myanmar today, we will be able to estimate whether the news media that is said to be free is really independent according to the points described above, and to what extent and status it is independent. I think that the quality of the news media can be evaluated by looking at how deeply they can analyze current events or how freely they can think and criticize.