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In previous government (democratically elected) in Myanmar, there was no media freedom and no internet freedom given in Rakhine State and the government did not answer transparently to the questions asked by media. All I can say is that a lot of suspicious things happened in other places. I can only say the government is not transparent with my gut feelings.

Without gut feelings, in theoretical paper, based on which facts can I say or identify that the government is not transparent? Because I believe that in democracy, transparency is important.

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  • You could ask someone to do it for you transparency.org/en/cpi/2020/index/nzl Myanmar is ranked 137 out of 180 in this organisationtion' index. But this is about corruption and not press freedom. So you may actually want to look at the press freedom index rsf.org/en/ranking. Here Myanmar is 139/180 WARNING all these are just expert opinions and not divine judgements
    – James K
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 13:34

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I think you are mixing three distinct concepts here.

  • Freedom of the press.
    This is the right of the news media to operate without undue censorship and restrictions. Note that I wrote "without undue restrictions" and not "without restrictions" -- being a journalist or news organization does not free them from all libel laws, or privacy protections of the involved persons, or for that matter stock trading rules.
  • Freedom of speech.
    This is the right of individuals other than the press to tell their opinion, and related to that the right of individuals to listen if they want. It might differ from the freedom of the press -- the press might be required by law to separate news content from paid advertising, or to disclose conflicts of interest, while individuals might not be required to do so. On the other hand, journalists might be allowed to keep their sources confidential.
  • Transparency.
    This concerns the government providing information to the press or to citizens. It is a relatively new concept and there is no international consensus yet how far it should go. Can I inquire with the tax office how much my neighbor earns, or does the government have to keep that secret? Do they have to tell me which official talked to which lobbyist?

For freedom of the press, see e.g. Reporters without Borders.
For transparency, see e.g. Transparency International.

Shutting down the internet (or the telephones) is not a transparency issue, it is both a freedom of speech issue and a freedom of the press issue. It stops individuals from posting their opinion and it stops them from reading the press.

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    You might want to add something about internet freedom, as the OP seems confused where that fits. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 11:57
  • @Fizz, added a paragraph.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 14:22
  • You say virtually nothing about 'transparency' other than admitting it's a 'relatively new concept' and that it is 'providing information to the press or citizen'. Plenty of governments do that - but this may not be in a transparent manner. In toto, you say nothing about transparency which is what the OP is asking about and instead punt of in the direction of press freedom and freedom of speech. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 16:47
  • @MoziburUllah, the way I read the question the OP worries about internet and press freedom, so I answered that.
    – o.m.
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:15
  • @o.m.: As you've implicitly pointed out 'transparency' is different from 'freedom of the press' and 'freedom of speech' as you've separately bullet-pointed them in your answer. However, as I've pointed out, you say next to nothing about transparency and you've simply focused on what you do know about. It's not answering the question. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 17:25
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A lame answer, which may unfortunately be true in practice...


To find a "transparent" government: find any nation that employs a creative redefinition of the term "transparency".

Any given government that wishes to can redefine transparency so that this term perfectly conforms to whatever things that government promotes or allows, but not to whatever it intends to conceal. Such a government may further improve their redefinition so that it doesn't protect adversarial political factions, dissidents, or rival nations.

One popular method among such governments to conflate data about anything they wish to conceal with crime, treason, disease, or some other entrenched cultural taboo. So a secretive and censorious nation might ostensibly boast accountability and freedom of speech, but redefine the works of even mild critics as deluded harbingers or outright purveyors of sacrilege, sickness, pornography, sedition, et al.

Failing that, an auxiliary tool is highly selective enforcement of petty laws and regulations against critics, the better to redefine them as scofflaws and criminals; as well as selective prosecution granting virtual impunity to any genuine criminals who wrong or harm said critics.

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  • Given a universal and objective definition of transparent, this fails to answer the question. The point being that governments themselves tend to become intrinsically biased and therefore are unlikely to be reliable or authoritative sources of such objective definitions.
    – agc
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 1:04
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Democracy is about having accountability. And for accountability to work, transparency is required. If, for example, the workings of government was opaque, how would you know who to vote for? Thus transparency is key to democratic government. Accountability and transparency have a complex relationship. It's not that one flows from the other. For example, one might think that information given in an objective fashion is transparent information, however Grosfuegel, a political theorist, has this to say about it in relation to Western forms of knowledge production:

It hides and conceals itself as being beyond a particular point of view, that is the point of view that represents itself as being without a point of view

And in so doing, dismisses non-Western knowledge as being particularistic. Through this dismissal, Western knowledge thereby becomes universal consciousness. This isn't transparency or objectivity, but merely the guise of transparency and objectivity for more effective propaganda. This is underlined by Thomas Sankara, a revolutionary socialist, a soldier and a President of Burkina Faso who said in relation to the neo-colonialism of the IMF and the World Bank:

It is both neccessary and urgent that our trained personnel and those who work with the pen learn that there is no such thing as neutral writing. In these stormy times we cannot give today's and yesterday's enemies a monopoly over thought, imagination & creativity.

One can say - at least - that transparency and accountability in their true sense mutually support each other. It's also important in relation to the media which we can think of as the fourth branch of government along with the legislature, judiciary and executive. Perhaps even the fifth, thinking of education and academia as the fourth.

Myanmar's constitution allowed the military to directly control a third of all seats in the regional and state hluttaws as well as a quarter of the national hluttaw. Obviously, this is not good for either transparency or accountability. And to my mind, it's this power-sharing agreement that has led to the current crisis of democracy in Myanmar.

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    Besides repeating some feel-good truisms, like "transparency is important" (and other random thoughts on what went wrong in Myanmar), I don't see how this actually answers the question how one can identify a transparent government. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 11:51
  • @Fizz: It's a complicated affair. For example, the United States is often said to have a free media and this is supposed to help with transparent government. However, the New York Times, according to Betrand Russell, went to some lengths to cover up what exactly was happening in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The comments I made regarding the the power-sharing arrangement with an unaccountable military is exactly on the lack of transparency and accountability rather than just 'random thoughts'. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 12:07
  • @Fizz: And to state that this is why there is a crisis in Myanmar now is only to point up why such an arrangement was bad for a transparently run and accountable government. Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 12:08
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    Media isn’t the 4th branch of government by any stretch of the imagination. They might have soft power, but they have absolutely zero hard power. The same goes for with education and academia. Also, I agree with fizz in that this does not answer the question at all (even your reply to fizz makes no sense) Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 13:28
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    The question is talking about transparency and you are answering about accountability. It is very possible that a government can have transparency but no accountability depending on the situation and corruption in the government. Sure it might be transparent but if it is corrupt and doesn't care about looks there will be no accountability.
    – Joe W
    Commented Apr 19, 2021 at 1:11

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