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New Myanmar Media Bill Criticized by Journalists

FILE - A Myanmar journalist with his mouth sealed with tape, symbolizing the government's recent crackdown on media, protest outside Myanmar Peace Center where President Thein Sein attends a meeting in Yangon, Myanmar, July 12, 2014.

Myanmar journalists are objecting to a proposed law that would authorize the formation of a broadcasting council to regulate and oversee TV and radio broadcasting.

The measure, proposed by the government and passed with little debate by the upper house of parliament Thursday, limits foreign ownership of private TV broadcasting in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

It also converts state-run TV and radio stations into public service media outlets, although it is not clear what material those entities would produce and broadcast.

Than Win Htut, from the journalist group Democratic Voice of Burma, tells VOA's Burmese service that the measure was being considered too hastily in the upper chamber.

“There is not enough consultation and discussion for this broadcast bill," said Htut. "It's a surprise that the bill was approved by upper house so quickly. Some points from broadcast bill put Burma's future media pluralism at risk."

But Hla Swe, a government supporter and member of the upper house, says the proposal will work if bold choices are made to fill the seats on the council.

Under the measure, the president, upper house and lower house of parliament each appoint three members to the broadcasting council. It is not clear yet when the lower house of parliament will consider the measure.

Journalists and human rights observers have accused the government of periodic harassment of reporters despite reforms that have taken place since 2011 when the country began transitioning from decades of military rule.

This report produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service.