Among the most exciting journalistic developments, Thiha Saw told me, is investigative reporting, which was difficult if not impossible before 2012. If it was done inside the country, it involved great risks, pen names, and smuggled footage, similar to efforts today in North Korea. “There were attempts to come up with these investigative reports [in the past], but they were killed under censorship,” he says. “Young people are now ready and willing to go after these kinds of stories.”
Sein Win, a training director at the school, worked in India and Thailand for Mizzima, a Myanmar media outlet that operated outside the country during the military junta, before returning in 2012. “When I started journalism, it was not about journalism. To be honest, I used journalism as a tool, sort of an information campaign to overthrow the military regime,” he tells me. “But for the youth, they have the opportunity to go straight to the professionalism. I believe this is very positive for the country. That’s why guys like Ko Swe Win can do the investigative stories,” he added, using a formal prefix for Burmese male names.
The curriculum includes classes on basic news writing, video, audio, media law, photojournalism, digital media, and feature writing, as well as key coverage areas such as the environment and an upcoming class on gender issues. MJI has partnered with news outlets for internships, and makes trainees head out into the field to report an in-depth story as part of what it calls “summer school.” Sein Win says most students who graduated in the first class in 2015 now have jobs.
He recognizes there are obstacles. “What I don’t like in the current situation is that journalists are overwhelmed by the self-censorship, avoiding sensitive issues,” he says. “But still, we need to investigate, we need to write about that. Luckily, people like Swe Win, they did a great thing,” he adds, saying he was inspired by the reporting. “When I read the story, I wanted to go back to the newsroom.”
Myanmar Journalism Institute was mentioned in Columbia Journalism Review.
Oct 26, 2016