With last November’s landslide election victory of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, the outlook for a successful democratic transition in Myanmar seems more positive than ever, notes David Angeles, a program officer for Southeast Asia at the National Endowment for Democracy. Arguably, it was the initial opening of the media environment under then-president U Thein Sein, including the end of official government censorship and the issuance of publication licences to dozens of independent newspapers across the country, that left many to conclude that the stage for concrete reforms was finally set and that Myanmar was on the right political track, he writes for The Myanmar Times:
If Myanmar’s political transition is to truly succeed, fundamental rights – including the freedoms of expression and information – must be prioritised by the NLD government by speaking out against the proliferation of flimsy, litigious tactics. Furthermore, if the case of The People’s Age serves as a harbinger for intra-ethnic relations, ethnic media and civil society activists will need to work not only on pushing for an inclusive peace and political agreement with the central government, but also to prepare their own leaders for the type of open media environment that a true democracy really needs. In the meantime, the international media development community would do well to expand its focus in the country beyond capacity building to actively foster and support activist campaigns working to create a freer media landscape as well as provide more resources for emergency legal and livelihood support to journalists and others affected by spurious claims of defamation.
This post originally appeared on the website of the Center for International Media Assistance, a think tank based in Washington, DC, that works to promote diverse and innovative media systems for an informed public around the world.