Mar 122014

YANGON (March 9, 2014) – In a speech given in conjunction with the East-West Center’s International Media Conference on “Challenges of a Free Press” this week in Yangon, Myanmar, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi today addressed press freedom issues in both emerging and developed democracies. (Watch the video of her talk.)

Photo: Allison Wrabel, Missouri School of Journalism

Click on the image to view the video
Photo: Allison Wrabel, Missouri School of Journalism

The democracy advocate, who spent years under political house arrest but is now an elected member of the national assembly, discussed how the media plays a key role in Myanmar’s political transition.

Noting that a long journey lies ahead for the country, she said: “We would like our media to help us in this quest to lay the foundations for a society, for a nation, which is not just for us, today, but for generations to come.”

Without a free press to check those who are in power, she said, “we will not be able to defend the rights and freedoms of the people. But at the same time, this press has to be aware not just of its great power and influence, but of the great responsibility that it bears for the building of a new nation that is centered on the will of the people.”

She cautioned that the press has an inherent obligation to its citizens and should not shirk its duties to the public. “Greater freedom demands greater responsibility,” she said. “It is one of my greatest concerns that people not look upon democracy as a system that gives unlimited rights to them but does not demand equal responsibility back.” Continue reading »

Mar 122014

YANGON (March 10, 2014) – U Ye Htut, Myanmar’s deputy minister of information and presidential spokesman, spoke to attendees of a landmark international media conference here on the evolution of the press in his country following ongoing political reforms. “It is the media that empowers citizens to make informed decisions, required to achieve democratic reforms in our society,” he said.

U Ye Htut

Photo by Ninh Pham, Missouri school of Journalism

U Ye Htut said Myanmar is becoming more open to the press, both foreign and domestic. He said more than 20 news agencies have opened up bureaus in the country, and that the first privately owned daily newspapers began appearing on newsstands last year after a more than 50-year absence.

He said Myanmar’s domestic media face a series of challenges, including continued mistrust between the government and the press.

“Most of the government ministries are reluctant to share their information with the press and the public,” he said. He noted his ministry is working with others in the government on developing guidelines for dealing with the media, and he hoped that increased transparency would alleviate that mistrust.

Another challenge, he said, is the scant opportunities for journalism training programs. He said that NGOs and various foreign governments are working with the media in Myanmar to develop training for young journalists to help improve the standard of journalism. Continue reading »

Mar 122014

Panelists at an East-West Center International Media Conference event recount tales of overcoming imprisonment, abuse and intimidation for their reporting

YANGON (March 10, 2014) – In the crackdown that followed a widespread 1988 uprising against repressive military rule in Myanmar, journalist U Win Tin was arrested, tortured and imprisoned for nearly 20 years before being released in 2008 amid sweeping reforms in the country.

Now in his eighties, U Win Tin was among a panel of journalists, all of whom had endured imprisonment, beatings or threats for their reporting, who addressed some 400 participants gathered for a keynote dinner on March 10 as part of the East-West Center’s International Media Conference in Yangon this week. In a scene that would have been virtually unimaginable just a few years ago, he told the audience at a hotel ballroom that today, “we are trying for democratic change in this country, but the remnants of the military dictatorship remain in various forms.”

Choosing to speak through an interpreter, he said that “we have to fight against the remaining followers of the dictators. Only after that we can have a chance to march towards democracy.”

American reporter Roxana Saberi recounted the 101 days she spent in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison after being accused of spying in a case that received international media attention. Initially held in solitary confinement and denied outside contact, she was unaware of the outcry over her plight until she was finally allowed to mix with other prisoners who had heard of it. Continue reading »

Mar 122014

YANGON (March 11, 2014) – A panel of experts debated both the concept of peace journalism and its greater implications for covering worldwide and domestic conflict today during the East-West Center’s International Media Conference held this week in Yangon, Myanmar. The panel included the director of the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies Jake Lynch, Indian freelance journalist Dilnaz Boga, Voice of America Burmese Service Chief Than Lwin Htun, and Aung Nang Oo of the Myanmar Peace Center. (Watch the video of the panel)

Than Lwin Htun_web

Than Lwin Htun

Throughout the panel, both Lynch and Boga argued for the necessity of peace journalism to better defuse violence and to understand conflict, such as the current ethnic violence in Myanmar described in a report by Than Lwin Htun. Aung Nang Oo remained critical of journalists throughout the discussion, noting that journalists’ lack of sensitivity regarding precarious peace negotiations could be destructive.

Lynch began the panel by outlining the definition of peace journalism, and drawing parallels between the necessity for peace journalism in covering Australia’s current treatment of asylum-seekers and in covering Myanmar’s ethnic violence in Rakhine state.

Continue reading »

Mar 122014

YANGON (March 10, 2014) — Defending strongly his belief that civic media is a powerful force in society, MIT Center for Civic Media Director Ethan Zuckerman spoke about the challenges and opportunities of public discourse media in a keynote speech at the 2014 East-West Center International Media Conference in Yangon, Myanmar. (Watch the video of the speech.)

Ethan Zuckerman

Photo: Ninh Pham, Missouri School of Journalism

Starting with a discussion on the Internet, Zuckerman said that Myanmar is going through 20 years worth of changes, conversations and debates about it in two years. “There is a concern that the Internet could lead to hate speech, ethnic violence and conflict. But I think it is wonderful to have the chance to wrestle with these questions,” he said.

Zuckerman defined civic media as digital media used for constructive public dialogue, “and it is about trying to work with others for social change.” He said he thinks the Internet opens a space for debate and participation that is more inclusive than offline spaces.

He admitted, however, that extreme speech is a challenge of civic media. Shyamal Dutta, a Bangladeshi journalist, also brought up this concern during the question-and-answer session. “Social media will be used by people to promote extremism,” Zuckerman said. “We have to get smart and creative in our social media use to counter that kind of speech.” Continue reading »

Mar 122014

YANGON (March 12, 2014) – With a high-ranking Information Ministry official joining them, a panel of local journalists said today at the final session of the East-West Center’ International Media Conference in Yangon that they are that they are cautiously hopeful about the future of media in Myanmar, although challenges remain. (Watch video of the panel.)

DSC_5671BU Ye Htut, Deputy Minister of Information and presidential spokesman, who stayed to attend the entire conference after delivering a keynote speech on the first day, also joined the panel and said that media in Myanmar must focus on editorial independence in an environment where he said many media owners attempt to manipulate the reporting. “We want the diversity of ownership, and we want the diversity of information in our country,” he said. Continue reading »

Mar 112014

YANGON (March 11, 2014) – Journalism executives and educators discussed how to sustain media businesses in the U.S. and Asia during a keynote luncheon today the East-West Center’s international media conference.

U Ko Ko, Pana Janviroj, Zafar Abbas

Zafar Abbas, Pana Janviroj, U Ko Ko

Randall Smith, business journalism professor from the Missouri School of Journalism, moderated the discussion.

“What the media has to do these days, in my opinion, is go back to business school,” Smith said. He said media organizations should align their content with what their customers want. In the U.S., niche markets are key to successful media businesses. The danger lies in those businesses with only one or two revenue streams, Smith said.

“The good news is the world still is flat,” Smith said. “It will always be flat, and good ideas are coming from everywhere.” Continue reading »

Mar 112014

A panel of journalists who were blacklisted under military rule discuss how they gathered information from outside Burma, and the tremendous courage of their sources within the country. The program includes a special surprise award presented by the panel to one of those “unsung heroes”, U Nay Min, for his bravery and personal sacrifice in getting information to outside reporters during the 1988 popular uprising against the regime.

Continue reading »

Mar 112014

YANGON (March 11, 2014) – Several cybersecurity experts held a panel discussion at the East-West Center’s Media Conference today to discuss ways journalists can keep their data and contacts secure. (Watch the video of the panel.)

Alan Pearce

Alan Pearce

“Everybody on the planet who uses the Internet needs to worry,” said Alan Pearce, a British journalist who specializes in cybersecurity. “If a cyber-criminal or an intelligence agent wanted to target anyone in this room, all they need is your email address.”

He went on to say that surveillance tactics against journalists can be used to figure out what they are doing at any given time.

“They can read your emails, see all of your photographs,” he said. “They can even turn on your camera and your microphone and follow you around.” Continue reading »

Mar 112014

YANGON (March 12, 2014) — The room listened in silence as an educator from Singapore, Cherian George, posed the question: “How long do we have to wait when the media crosses the line?”

George, an associate professor at Nanyang Technological University and director of the university’s Asia Journalism Fellowships, had just recounted the role of radio in the Rwandan genocide, when extremist radio stations “went to the extent of giving instructions on how to kill people and even broadcasting names of who to kill.”

George said regulation of hate speech is complicated because it brings into conflict two democratic principles: liberty and equality. “The principle of liberty offers the freedom to cause offense,” he said. “But equality tells us we need to protect vulnerable groups from speech that would harm them.” Continue reading »

Mar 112014

Union of Myanmar presidential spokesman and Deputy Information Minister U Ye Htut fields press questions after his address at the 2014 East-West Center International Media Conference in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 10, 2014. The questioning touches on some of the country’s most sensitive issues, including the plight of Rohingya Muslims in the country’s western Rakhine state, new restrictions on foreign journalists’ visas and amendments to the country’s constitution in advance of elections in 2015.

Mar 112014

YANGON (March 10, 2014) – Jacob Mathew, executive editor and publisher of the Malayala Manorama newspaper in India, discussed media trends, strategies and freedoms in the digital age in a luncheon address today at the East-West Center International Media Conference in Yangon, Myanmar.

Jacob Mathew

Jacob Mathew

With a 125-year history of publication, Malayala Manorama has a circulation of 2.2 million, reflecting a trend of healthy news consumership in Asia, he said, noting that 27 out of 47 Asian countries have at least a 90 percent literacy rate, and the populations of six of those countries are expected to double in the next 30 years.

Mathew said the challenge newspapers face is still how to make content more engrossing for the reader. “Unique, credible content will always be the winner,” he said.

He noted that publishers must also learn how to use social media to attract more attention and elicit reader response. With the influx of digital media, readers devote less of their time to reading print content, Mathew said. Continue reading »

Mar 112014

YANGON (March 12, 2014) – A panel at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference examined the United States’ role in Southeast Asia and its relationship with the other great powers in the region.

Great powers panelMuch of the discussion centered on the U.S. relationship with China and the so-called “pivot” in American foreign policy toward Asia. Ralph Cossa, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Pacific Forum, said that American interests in the region were nothing new. He said George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had similar interests in Southeast Asia, but “during the George W. Bush administration, we got somewhat distracted by 9/11, by Iraq, by Afghanistan.”

“Is the pivot about China?” he asked. “Yes. It’s about China. It’s about Japan. It’s about Australia. It’s about Myanmar. It’s about ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. It’s about the Koreas […] but it’s not certainly all about China.”

The more important question, Cossa said, is whether the pivot is against China. “And the honest answer is no—not yet,” he said. “Can it be against China? Absolutely, but that would be driven by Chinese actions, not American interests.” Continue reading »

Mar 112014

Recently, journalists and scholars attended a East-West Center’s 2014 International Media Conference on free press issues in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly Rangoon, Burma). Just a few short years ago, holding such a conference in such a place would be considered unthinkable: a military junta ruled the country, and the state of journalism in Myanmar was considered to be oppressive at best. Continue reading »