Statement of PEN Myanmar Resolutions on the Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Assembly (2016)

On the day of World Press Freedom (May 3rd), PEN Myanmar states its resolutions on the Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Opinion and Freedom of Assembly (2016) as following.

1.Resolution on Ministry of Information

PEN Myanmar believes that the Ministry of Information should not exist in a democratic country. However we acknowledge the existing Ministry of Information. And it expects that the Ministry of Information will support the foundation of basic institutions, which guarantees responsible freedom of expression, and repeal or amend all undemocratic laws passed by the former government.

In addition, PEN Myanmar believes that democratic government does not need any ministry for doing propaganda but it needs to provide an atmosphere for protecting right to know of its people/citizens. We have high hope that the Ministry of Information (MOI)will support the drafting and passing of the Right to Information Law according to international standards so that every citizen can claim information from a relevant government department. In addition, the MOI should assist the different ministries to establish well-functioning public relations departments to release immediate news of public interest. PEN Myanmar believes that once the public relations departments will have started operating efficiently, a plan to abolish the Ministry of Information is necessary in a democratic country.

2.Resolution on the privatization of state-owned media – opposing media owned by Union Level Institutions (public bodies)

PEN Myanmar expects that national level institutions (public bodies) will stop using their own media channels and use public-own media instead. Moreover, government ministries and the military are assumed to be public bodies. The current government uses Myanmar Radio and Television, and three newspapers to carry out policy propaganda and the Military has its own media channel – ‘Myawaddy’ television and newspaper – which it uses effectively and strategically. However Myawaddy’s topic and principle of propaganda are not the same as those of the government. This is a contradictory and improper way of using media to do propaganda instead of providing information for public interest. This can undermine the role of media in a democratic transition. Public bodies should not be allowed to establish and use their own media. Additionally, current media owned by those public bodies should be immediately privatized. The efforts should be made to encourage more private investment in broadcasting media according to democratic values.

3.Resolution on Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Opinion and Freedom to Assembly

PEN Myanmar stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge to oppose any form of expression suppression in their country and community as well as throughout the world, wherever this is possible. PEN supports free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in times of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world toward a more highly organized political and economic order renders critique of governments, administrations, and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.

PEN Myanmar condemns writing that includes deliberately falsified information (on ethnicity, religion and/or nationality) to generate conflict and opposes the manipulation of freedom of expression for personal or/and political gain. It is one of PEN Myanmar’s four principles. Any wrong doing that may trigger hatred (ethnic religious and/or national) carried out by any religious believer is opposed and denounced. PEN Myanmar urges the new government to guarantee equality and social justice for everyone. To ensure power sharing among three pillars (executive, legislative & judiciary), freedom of expression and freedom of opinion of MPs must also be guaranteed. In addition to the Union Government, regional governments and parliaments should be accountable and responsible to the people and carry out effective and efficient policies to support people and their rights. If needed, PEN Myanmar will do everything in our power to support these efforts.

4.Resolution on the Development of Literature

PEN Myanmar defends and promotes freedom of expression, and helps to establish a vital literary culture in Myanmar. We pledge with all our heart to help our citizens who have become so distanced from literature for numerous reasons to feel the taste of it again. As literature and culture are vital to a country’s development, PEN Myanmar urges the new government to develop a strategy to encourage citizens to become aware of the value of literature once again.  The government should develop a policy in which postal services, ICT technology and printing and publishing industries can collaborate to ensure the sustainability of libraries and to allow stakeholders in printing and publishing industries to develop independent plans and policies. PEN Myanmar is ready to support the new government in developing such a policy or plan.

5.Resolution on the Role of Literature in Education

Myanmar literature, regional contemporary literature and world literature should be included in school curricula starting from primary to advanced education. Research on contemporary literature (Myanmar, regional and international) is also very important for getting a good curriculum of literature for schools. The government should develop a policy to create such kind of research opportunities for individuals and/or organizations and PEN Myanmar is happy to help.

6.Resolution on PEN Myanmar Policy towards Current Government

PEN Myanmar has released many statements via independent media under the past government as there were few avenues of communication and lack of trust. The new, legitimately elected government is in place, however, and we believe that it would consider feedback from civil society and community based organizations. From now on, PEN Myanmar will submit our concerns and feedback directly to the respective ministerial departments and individuals in the Union and regional governments. Only when there is no feedback or unsatisfactory action, we will publish a public statement. Even though communication will be between PEN Myanmar and respective authorities, the communication should be archived and made available upon request from the media and/or the public. In additionally, PEN Myanmar stands for democratic values and if anything contradicts these values, we will make our voice heard through the media.

In conclusion, PEN Myanmar is positive about the new government and is willing to work with the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches by constructive criticism.

PEN Myanmar Center

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