Political parties and the media exchange ideas in Yangon
The banks of Inya Lake in Yangon was the serene setting for a conversation between 43 political parties and journalists from 36 leading media houses in Myanmar. The Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme (MMDP) (initiated by DIPD and NIMD), and International Media Support (IMS) have joined hands to make this path-breaking event happen. The purpose of the seminar was to make political parties and media persons talk to each other in a convivial atmosphere away from the compulsions of their professions.
Honorable U Tin Aye, the Chairman of Union Election Commission (UEC) of Myanmar set the tone of the seminar by pointing out that media and political parties need to work together to strengthen democracy in the country.
In the second session, Mr. Thiha Saw from Myanmar Journalist Association (MJA) and U Khin Maung Lay, Editor-in-Chief of Golden Fresh Land, highlighted the complementary roles that parties and media have in listening to the voices of the citizens, in being accountable and in doing their work in line with professional ethics.
Tin Muang Than of MDRI, a think-tank based in Yangon, emphasized sensitivities of relationship between media and political parties in times of transition and called upon participants to exercise restraint in dealing with each other. A lively debate followed. The seminar broke for lunch with a lot of ideas to consider and participants talked to one another about their impressions.
The afternoon session began with a presentation of the case study by Ratih Hardjono Falaah, the Secretary General of Komunitas Indonesia untuk Demokrasi (KID), about the relationship between political parties and media in Indonesia. She dwelled upon the importance of not hurrying the process of reforms but continuing with incremental changes in the desired direction.
The afternoon session contained a case study from Nepal where, Mr. C.K. Lal, a political commentator from Nepal, presented an outline of ups and downs when democratizing a country while institutionalizing the cordial relationship between the press and political parties. He advised small and ethnic parties to form alliances in order to attract media attention and told journalists to report about issues of marginalized people to increase the respectability of the free press in all sections of society. Mutual respect helps deepen understanding, which is vital for the health of a long-lasting democracy.
The last session turned out to be the most engaging. Six groups discussed and came up with various recommendations to create and maintain working relationships between political parties and the press. Everyone agreed that forums for such conversations need to be institutionalized in Myanmar. Political party leaders have to be trained in the skill of dealing with the media. Journalists also have to learn new ways of engaging in political parties.
During the closing session, hosts expressed satisfaction at the outcome of the seminar and pledged to continue to support such initiatives in the future in order to assist the democratization process in Myanmar. The importance of free press in a functioning democracy requires that political parties become more media savvy. Areas for improving capabilities of political parties in handling media before, during and after elections have to be explored to design effective intervention strategies in the future.
The take away from the seminar for most participants is that they need to work harder and better to reach out to each other in order to improve the effectiveness of political parties and the media. Participants expressed hope that there would be more of such opportunities to meet and learn collectively and that the event required follow-up activities from all stakeholders in order to continue in improving the roles, responsibilities and relationships between political parties and the media.
The seminar forms part of the Political Parties and Media Component of the Myanmar Multiparty Democracy Programme ( MMDP).
For further information contact:
Yangon: Khin Thazin Myint, Programme Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yangon IMS: Glen Swanson: email@example.com, www.i-m-s.dk
Denmark: Hanne Lund Madsen,DIPD: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Netherlands: Maaike Van der Werf, NIMD:email@example.com