Myanmar has lifted media restriction and allowed more freedom of expression in media coverage since 2011. Pre-publication censorship was abolished in 2012, an interim Press Council was established in 2014, and also introduced nationwide Media Code of Conduct in May 2014 to ensure media’s accuracy, balance and fairness on politics and elections. the Media Bill and the Printers and Publishers Regulation Bill were also passed by the Parliament in the same month.
The Media Code of Conduct came with additional obligations and duties which media should comply during the election period. The Guidelines for Media During Elections includes elaboration of media’s roles and responsibilities including Dos and Don’ts in informing the public, coverage of the election, responsibility for statements by candidates and parties, rapid access to remedies and reporting election results.
However, the media obviously has clear political divide in elections regardless of the Media Code of Conduct. Director of the Myanmar Institute of Democracy stated that state media emphasizes the achievement of the government, what success they have achieved during this period of time, coverage of the President, cabinet ministers, the chief of the military service. On the other hand, private media emphazises activities of the opposition, mainly National League for Democracy. A report by Myanmar Institute for Democracy’s report which monitored media coverage during September 8-28, 2015 has shown that only foreign-based broadcasters have provided voters with plurality of views and diverse information about contesting candidates and political subjects.
Nonetheless, even though it was the first elections in which media could report election matters freely, there were still arrests of journalists by authorities prior to elections. The media was still monitored by the government and the Official Secret Act from 1923 was still enforced to threaten people.
Guidelines for Media During Elections: Shorter Version, Myanmar Press Council-Interim, March 2015, http://www.irrawaddy.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Election-Reporting-Guidelines-English.pdf.
Tan Qiuyi, A balancing act: Media coverage in Myanmar’s landmark elections, Channel News Asia, Oct 30, 2015, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/a-balancing-act-media/2226656.html.
Shwe Yee Saw Myint, Media report notes lack of balance in election coverage, Myanmar Times, October 19, 2015, http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/17069-media-report-notes-lack-of-balance-in-election-coverage.html.
Media and elections in Myanmar, International Media Support, November 5, 2015, https://www.mediasupport.org/photos-myanmar-2015-elections/.