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Press Monitors express concern about Burma’s domestic media

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Post-election coverage of Burma’s political scene by the country’s state-controlled press, TV and radio continues to ignore professional journalistic standards, according to two reports issued by the media monitoring organization MEMO 98.
Ivan godarsky, left, and Zaw Win discuss the MEMO 98 report on the media in Burma at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand in Bangkok on Tuesday. Photo: MizzimaMonitors employed by the Slovakia-based MEMO 98 within and outside Burma followed media coverage of the Burmese political scene for several months before, during and after the 7 November 2010 election.
Two separate studies of coverage by the domestic and exile media found nothing had changed under the new administration in Naypyitaw.
‘While the media coverage in state-controlled outlets focused on the election, its coverage was narrow and lacked any analytical or critical views of the process’, said a report based on a two-week study conducted directly after the election.
‘Clear bias in favour of state officials and incumbents, compounded by a complete lack of any critical coverage of the authorities and a lack of coverage of opposition views characterized the coverage offered by the Burmese state media’, the report said.
A further six-week study conducted after the installation of a new administration in Naypyitaw confirmed that nothing had changed, despite the relaxation of pre-publication censorship of about half Burma’s newspapers, magazines and journals.
‘While it can generally be seen as a move towards media freedom, it is also believed that censors might repeat methods similar to those used before the military takeover in 1988’, said a report on the six-week study.
The report echoed the findings of the earlier research of the two-week post election study. ‘It is…possible to conclude that the monitored state-controlled media in Burma do not follow any journalistic standards, but serve only as a mouthpiece of the ruling powers.
‘With more than half a year after the flawed 2010 parliamentary elections, condemned by the United Nations and the whole international community, the main news programmes of state-controlled TV channels once again showed only the top state officials and completely ignored any other stakeholders’.
The release from house arrest of Burma’s most famous political prisoner, Aung San Suu Kyi had commanded ‘extremely limited’ attention in the state media and was ‘insignificant in comparison with the extent of [media] presentation of the authorities’, MEMO 98 said.
Retail booths called ‘Media Corners’, in background, are being built by the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association in six townships in Rangoon. The media corners will sell newspapers, magazines, books, phone cards and computer accessories. Photo: MizzimaThe exile media escaped MEMO 98 criticism, with the exception of the Democratic Voice of Burma, which the organization said had ‘on several occasions made some factual or technical mistakes when presenting their news reports. As such the channel’s professional reputation was challenged, as similar instances have been noticed in the previous monitoring periods.’
The MEMO 98 report did not elaborate on its criticism of DVB. DVB’s Chiang Mai Bureau chief said the lack of any details to support the accusation made it difficult for his organization to respond.
Toe Zaw Latt told Mizzima: ‘As the report did not elaborate on MEMO's criticism, it is very difficult for us to comment directly on it. But what we can say is that we take seriously the quality of all our news stories, and that is an everyday challenge for us in our newsroom’.
The MEMO 98 monitors reported that, among the monitored exile news sites, Mizzima covered the biggest number of political subjects—31 (including 24 political parties).
MEMO 98 was founded in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 1998 to monitor press coverage of the country’s first free election. Since then it has monitored the media of several countries of the former Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, South America and Africa.
‘The Burma project was our first in this part of the world’, MEMO 98 media and legal consultant Ivan Godarksy told Mizzima. ‘We are very pleased with the comprehensive nature of the project, but obviously very concerned about the picture it has provided of the state of Burma’s domestic media’.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 June 2011 22:10 )  

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