Myanmar: Changing for the future
– One of our biggest challenges in Myanmar is to make the change our self's to not being censored so much anymore. To write fair and balanced news stories, says Cherry Htike, editor at Myit Ma Kha News Agency. Even the older staff that is used not to.
– Some of them have only worked under military rule, and can find it hard to adjust to the new, freer situation.
Cherry's concern is shared by many, especially among the younger generation and women. There seems to be a strict hierarchy ruled by age and even though the senior reporters have all been calling for more freedom for the press, the way they are used to working is maybe hard to change.
– We have been struggling under censorship, says Cherrie but now we are getting some freedom, maybe not much but some. We have to change with it.
She and her colleagues work on the eighth floor at the Myit Ma Kha News Agency, fitted into the apartment of the founder and owner May Thingyan Hein. Apart from housing her and her children, the agency has a TV-studio, kitchen, radio studio and two large newsrooms. They supply other media with news from Yangon and from the regions. This makes them rather unique in Myanmar and Cherry is one of the editors responsible for the local material.
There are over 30 trained reporters out there delivering news on a daily basis. Because of bad internet connections they often file their stories by phone. Sometimes not even that works.
– But working for an agency gives us so much more freedom than working directly under a media house with its own policies and strict formats, says Cherry.
And freedom is what made her choose this somewhat uncertain and not very profitable career.
– I had a secure job in a UN agency but when I travelled and saw the conditions people in my country live under, I decided that I wanted to tell their stories.
So after passing through a couple of the larger Yangon media houses, she found Myit Ma Kha News Agency. I'm visiting them, and eight other news media organisations to work on management structures and future online strategies in this first part of two Fojo News Management training sessions.
– I used to work with international reporters and saw how often they turned to and used social and other online media, so I want to do that too. I now learned that we can use internet more in finding sources and material and in the future I would like to be able to file radio and TV too but we all need more training here.
Also she thinks new management structures can save time and resources. Something she and her colleagues badly need.
– I now have a plan for time management for the reporters, and for the output of our media to make it more available for the clients.
It's easier in Yangon she says, because training is more available and also she can talk directly to her reporters, coach them and discuss changes and improvements in the text, but she understands that working out in this vast country is very different.
– But we have to change, we have to be accurate, especially us that run news agencies, says Cherrie Htike.
She says "no thanks" to stories that she thinks are more activist material than unbiased reports. That makes her senior colleagues sometimes upset she says, but she is determined.
– I have to be patient, and I think from this training I have learned a few tools to make that dialogue more easy and structured from my side.
During the censorship they could not give the people correct information, they had to struggle with every sentence to make it pass the censor and she do not want to go back to that time. So they have to work hard to make sure good journalism survives.
– We have to stop promoting stereotypes and risk more conflicts.
– If we have freedom for the press, i think it's useful for everyone, both the government and the people.
Text and photo