July 22, By Man Yu Kyaw
In an editorial upset prompted by alleged government meddling and a lack of editorial freedom, the news team from the state government-run Rakhine Gazette submitted a resignation notice on July 17.
The seven-member news team submitted their joint letter to the Rakhine (Arakan) State Chief Minister, copying the state ministers and the secretary of the Rakhine State government.
The news team’s letter outlined their grievances, including the claim that state’s Minister of Municipal Affairs U Min Aung often threatened the staff and tried to coerce them into writing news reports on allegations that lacked evidence. When the staff refused, he would allegedly get angry with the reporters, chastising them for not using his information and for trying to seek out independent corroboration.
The news team, including media officer Ko Moe Wai, also known as U Nyunt Win, managing editor U Min Aung Khine, editor U Ne Win San, chief reporter U Thet Naing Win, reporters U Hla Htay Maung and U Zaw Thein Naing and layout designer U Nay Kha Thaw said their resignation will go into effect on August 1.
“We have officially resigned because we have arrived at a stage where we can’t move forward with them [the government officials],” said Ko Moe Wai.
“The government did not set down a policy for running the [state-funded] journal. We wanted them to set down an editorial policy, but they didn’t,” he added.
Operating with no guidelines, the news team felt their editorial freedoms were constantly infringed upon, yet the government influence did not extend to a mutual sharing of information.
“There is no communication between our team and the government. We want to cover [government events] but they told us that they can’t give us the information immediately,” Ko Moe Wai said.
He added that his team refuses to continue working for the Rakhine Gazette, even if they receive an offer to negotiate their problems or resolve the lack of a clear policy.
When Narinjara News tried to contact Minister of Municipal Affairs U Min Aung, his personal assistant said that the minister was attending a meeting. The personal assistant said he did not know when the meeting would end and told Narinjara News to talk to the media liaison.
Daw Chit Chit Chaw, who has been recently appointed as the media liaison for the Rakhine Gazette, declined to comment about the recent spate of resignations when she was contacted by Narinjara News.
The Rakhine Gazette began publication in mid-2016 after the National League for Democracy-led government took office. The journal is published twice a month in Rakhine State.