Media development for democracy in Myanmar
Following developments on the ground
Up until 2010 – when the Fojo Media Institute jointly with International Media Support (IMS) began working in Myanmar – the country’s media had been marked with strict censorship and restrictions. The situation shifted in 2011 when a reform-oriented government was ushered in and a five-year period of legal reforms was introduced that allowed the media to develop in parallel.
With the handover of the government to Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD), reform processes lost pace, including media law reforms. However, the increased availability of the Internet and massive use of social media drastically reshaped the overall media environment in the country, forever changing the habits of the general public on how they access information.
Gender inequality is not only reflected throughout the media structures, but also in everyday reporting. Although local news media do have the legal right to write and publish, press freedom can still not be taken for granted. Criticising religious and military leaders can still be punishable by law, and journalists are to respect “Myanmar traditional values.” This, combined with a generally complex political situation and the ongoing civil war(s), make self-censorship and safety concerns part of everyday life for Myanmar journalists.
Even prior to the current military coup, Myanmar’s media was heavily marred by procrastination of media law reforms, with increasing risks for journalists who struggled to battle against ever increasing disinformation. In addition, ethnic tensions and discriminations were mirrored in daily reporting, which further added to a declining trust in the media. As of now (March 2021), access to independent information to the public and citizens is heavily restricted.
What we do
Fojo’s media engagement in Myanmar has always followed developments on the ground, focusing firstly (2010-15) on the media reform processes and strengthening of the media sector in general. Between 2016-19, we shifted to consolidate essential reform elements and to professionalise journalists and media institutions, as well as to enhance mechanisms to better reach out to rural communities.
During the phase preceding the current coup, that was planned to continue until 2023, IMS – Fojo is to build upon the experiences gathered from previous years, using it to address specific challenges that hinder free access to information. For example, we will work with partners on the production of public interest media content that seeks to enhance safety for journalists and promote media law and policy reform. Furthermore, our focus will remain on training of journalists, on establishment of mechanisms to address the spread of disinformation, as well as on self-regulation of the media.
The Fojo-IMS’ mission is to support and strengthen local organisations. For example, Myanmar Journalist Institute (MJI), established in 2014 as the first independent journalism training institute, has since trained more than 700 journalists from all over the country. In 2016 Myanmar Women Journalist Society (MWJS) was created to support women journalists and to promote gender equality in and through the media. Myanmar Media Lawyers Network (MMLN) is another important partner that provides legal support to journalists.
Because of the ongoing work by our partners, supported by Fojo and IMS, more than 100 students were able to graduate and receive diplomas in professional journalism. Community media were trained and were able to prevent the spread of Covid-related panic in villages in Chin state. Furthermore, an increasing number of media outlets are frequently vocal about gender balance in their news coverage.
Our work in Myanmar has been implemented with financial support from the EU, Sida, Danida, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norad. In addition, Fojo is running a Sida funded regional network programme for media training institutions in South East Asia, that also includes Myanmar.
Senaste från Myanmar
”I know the potential dangers and consider that I could be the one who is shot that day, but I want to go to the demonstrations myself anyway.
I worry about my children who will have no one to take care of them – more than I care about being killed. Another thing I worry about is that international news coverage will stop.
I want peace and I want my children’s future to be beautiful and bright and I also hope for full human rights.”