UNITED NATIONS RESIDENT AND HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR
SPEECH FOR WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
3 MAY 2017
Excellency, Union Minister for Information Dr. Pe Myint,
Excellency, Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of Sweden to Myanmar Mr. Johan Hallenborg.
Dear Media colleagues and colleagues from the UN,
Mingalabar Shin and a very good morning to you all.
It’s an honour for me to read to you the UN Secretary General’s message on World Press Freedom Day 2017:
“Journalists go to the most dangerous places to give voice to the voiceless.
Media workers suffer character assassination, sexual assault, detention, injuries and even death.
We need leaders to defend a free media. This is crucial to counter prevailing misinformation.
And we need everyone to stand for our right to truth.
On World Press Freedom Day, I call for an end to all crackdowns against journalists – because a free press advances peace and justice for all.
When we protect journalists, their words and pictures can change our world.”
… and now, let me say a few words of my own.
I would first like to pay tribute to one of the most revered journalists in Myanmar, U Win Tin, who won the prestigious UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize back in 2001. At that time, sadly, U Win Tin was actually in prison and as we all know, a prison is no place for a credible journalist.
Myanmar and media freedoms have certainly come a long way since then. Like U Win Tin, and others, Myanmar continues to produce great journalists. Last year, Myanmar produced its first Pulitzer Prize Winner, Esther Htusan, of the Associated Press, who together with her colleagues, won the Award for Public Service Journalism, when their stories of trafficked Myanmar fishermen broke the news and resulted in the freedom of more than two thousand Myanmar fishermen, and made countries in the region look into their laws to protect migrant workers.
This year’s World Press Freedom Index released by Reports without Borders saw Myanmar climb 12 places compared to the previous year as expressed by the Minister just now. This represents strong efforts being made by the Government in Myanmar.
Myanmar has come far, there is no question about that. But there are still 130 countries ahead of Myanmar on the World Press Freedom Index and more efforts need to be done. There are still, for example, concerns raised on the safety and security of journalists. Just last year, Excellency Dr. Pe Myint presented an award on behalf of the President, to Myanmar Now journalist, U Swe Win who ended the servitude of two housemaids at a Yangon tailor shop. U Swe Win’s courageous reporting on sensitive issues in Myanmar led to him receive death threats. Likewise, the death of a Monywa-based Eleven journalist remains unresolved. Journalists need protection.
There are high expectations on increased media freedoms under the present Government. The media in Myanmar have made significant progress. They have set high standards for themselves and expect the support of the Government in helping them to reach these standards. Higher media standards require access to information, including Government sources and to areas in strife, in order to report credibly, based on verified information. Credible media does not produce fake news. Credible media does not vilify people, incite hatred or make character assassinations. In order for credible media to do its job, support must be given to remove barriers. Whether these barriers are physical, psychological, or censorship — either imposed or self-imposed, they should be a thing of the past in today’s Myanmar.
In conclusion, on this World Press Freedom Day, let us honour the brave journalists who have sacrificed a great deal, including in some cases, their very own lives. Media freedom is the fourth estate and the foundations of a healthy democratic society, governed by the rule of law and open and transparent.
Thank you very much, Kyay zuu tin bar deh.