Press Availability in Rangoon

Press Availability
Richard Stengel
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Rangoon, Burma
April 29, 2014

Q: Do you have any comment about our press freedom situation right now? Do you have any concern about this?

A: Yes, we have been very supportive of the reforms that government has instituted as far as press freedom, the release of political prisoners, the ending of censorship rules. At the same time there is still a long way ago. We are very concerned about the imprisonment of journalists, the harassment of journalists, the targeting of journalists; that’s something that we are against in every way. What we do want to see is the continuing reform of the media, the continuing liberalization of laws regarding the media. We had productive discussions with the Minister of Information about that today. So, it’s a kind of two-step process -- yes, continue the liberalization and end the repression of journalists at the same time.

Q: Would you like to share [with] us information from the Information Minister? Any message?

A: Yes, I believe that there is a continuing desire to liberalize the press to reform laws about the press. You know, at the same time, we want it to go faster. We want it to be more complete, and we, myself and the Ambassador, the U.S. Government is in continuing conversations with the government about that.

Q: One question on the constitutional amendment. The people [are] expecting this constitution [to be] change[d] before 2015 general elections. Can you make comment on this in general?

A: In general, what we support is the will of the people expressed through the constitution. The constitution itself should be reflective of the will and the desires of the people. As far as how to amend the constitution and the specific way, we don’t have a point of view other than the fact that it ought to reflect the people’s will. And there does seem to be a large sense among Burmese that the constitution does need to be amended. That is an internal process and we simply support the idea that the constitution reflects the will of the people.

Q: You met with the some civic groups yesterday. So, do you see any difficulties for challenges for the straightening the civil society in this country?

A: Again, we are very supportive of civil society in general. We want to continue openness and dynamism of civil society that contributes to a more democratic society, and that’s something I know the Ambassador and State Department is urging and wants to continue in talks that we have with the government.

Q: So, may I know, could you please tell us what are the highlights for visiting during this trip here in Myanmar sir?

A: One of the highlights has been talking to regular folks who are excited about the reform process, who want to continue the democratization of Burma and the enthusiasm and patriotism of those regular Burmese citizens who we want to encourage in continuing to support the reform process.

Q: So, as the U.S., how are you going to cooperate? In which sectors are you going to cooperate in the future with Myanmar sir?

A: Well, we talked about civil society, and we are supporting what works. We are supporting constitutional reform. We are supporting liberalization of media laws. We are trying to give some support in terms of increasing capacity in media, increasing capacity in constitutional law, and we support all of those efforts.

Moderator: Maybe time for one more question.

Q: Are there any plans to send election observer[s] from the U.S.?

A: Well, again, what we support is a free and fair election, and anything, any ways we can help to make sure the election is free and fair and that it represents the people’s will, we will do that. Thanks a lot.