Myanmar’s state-run English-language daily newspaper the New Light of Myanmar said last week that it will start running as a joint venture with a Myanmar-born private investor by next months.
The unidentified private investor – reportedly, local firm Global Direct Link Co – will have 49 percent stake in the joint venture, while the daily, which is now under the Ministry of Information, will have 51 percent share.
The daily will also be relocated by the private investor from its current base in Nay Pyi Taw to Yangon, it said.
The newspaper said it currently relies heavily on translation from the Myanmar News Agency (MNA) with international news taking up most of the paper, stressing that the daily should act as “the window of Myanmar” based on the concept of Singapore-based The Strait Times, with the target readership from foreign diplomats, businessmen and other decision makers.
Deputy Minister of Information U Ye Htut said once more staff has been hired and equipment provided, the newspaper can start reporting on a wide range of topics in a balanced manner.
The daily will suspend all operations until the relocation is completed. Though the exact timeframe of the move is yet to be known, stakeholders estimated a closure of about seven days around mid-April.
Earlier, minister for information U Aung Kyi said a bill seeking to transform Myanmar’s state-run media into a “public service media” have been submitted to the parliament’s Lower House for approval.
“The bill was drafted with the help of UNESCO to enable it to be in conformity with the principles of diversity of media pluralism,” U Aung Kyi told the parliament.
Out of Myanmar’s literate population of 49 million, 43 million residents in rural areas cannot afford to subscribe to newspapers.
“If the parliament approves the public service media bill, there will be media pluralism with public service media, state-owned media, joint-venture media, non-profit media and ethnic and community-owned media in the country,” the minister said.
The current government started media reforms in June 2011, and in August 2012, domestic media publication control was fully liberalised. In December 2012, Myanmar announced free publication of private daily newspapers and dissolved its infamous Press Scrutiny and Registration Division.
Since then, 31 private daily newspapers had been granted license for publication, of which 24 are Myanmar-language papers and two in English. However, the ministry warned that of the granted publications, over two dozens of dailies, journals and magazines, which could not publish in time, will be stopped.
There are six state-owned dailies in addition to over 200 privately-run weekly journals in Myanmar, English and Chinese languages, as well as over 200 magazines and nearly 7,000 private publishers.
Myanmar last week also enacted a new Media Law which the newspaper said clearly stipulates press freedom and the right of journalists to openly criticise and pinpoint the shortcomings of the legislative, executive and judicial powers among other rights.