The Chin State government will hold a press conference in the state capital of Hakha on June 24 to assess the administration’s annual performance—but all media inquiries must be submitted in advance.
An invitation letter sent to media groups stated that each organization could submit three questions to the state’s information and public relations department. The deadline for submission was Tuesday.
Par Pwi, chief editor of The Hakha Post, told Khonumthung News that while the press conference is welcomed, the demand that questions be pre-determined is not.
“If possible, they should not ask for questions ahead of the press conference. They should hold it with full transparency,” he said. “Requesting questions ahead of the press conference is not a normal practice in the media.”
Par Pwi said that if he cannot ask questions freely, he and The Hakha Post would not attend the upcoming press conference.
Joint Secretary (1) of the Myanmar Press Council Ko Myint Kyaw said that the request could only be justified for questions regarding the economic and development index, since the data would have to be obtained in advance.
“If they limit the other questions, it means they are trying to control the media,” he said. “I don’t think they need to request questions ahead of time if they know what they are going to do in this press conference.”
Spokesperson for the Chin State government U Soe Htet said that the request for advance questions is because government representatives want to ensure they have the “exact numbers and data” required to answer inquiries.
“We cannot answer questions with incorrect numbers. That’s why we are asking for questions ahead of the press conference,” U Soe Htet told Khonumthung News. “For example, on the budget issue—if someone asks about the budget, we have to answer how many millions [are being spent]. We need exact data.”
He added that the government would “not limit the questions” and that they “will answer all questions, whatever they ask.” The practice of demanding questions in advance has been used before at press conferences in Chin State, members of the media said, adding that, to their knowledge, it was not a standard practice in other states and regions.