Burma, young journalist, Banyol Kong Janoi, Zar Ni


In the past young people in Burma didn’t dream of becoming a journalist.

It was a dangerous professional that could land you in prison.

Journalists in Burma often kept their profession a secret from their family to protect them.

But as Burma starts to become more democratic and the government has changed its censorship laws…. things are changing.

28-year-old Ye Naing Oo is conducting an interview at a press conference. 

He joined a weekly journal six months ago – despite objections from his parents. 

After finishing high school, he was forced to continue his studies at the University of Medicine, one of the most prestigious universities in Burma. 

“I couldn't say no to them, so I had to attend the school. I wasn’t interested in the lessons and didn’t do the assignments properly. I just read what I was interested in. And at the time, I didn’t know anything about journalism. So in my final year in 2007, I started to learn more about it. I finished medical school and gave the certificate to my parents. Then I could do what I really wanted to do.”

He attended some training courses including English and computer classes. 

"When I was young, I wanted to open a bookshop. I read a lot of writers' biographies so I wanted to be a writer.” 

Many young people are now eager to become journalists after the government abolished strict censorship laws in August last year. 

Ye Naing Moe is teaching basic writing skills for 15 aspiring young journalists. 

He was also an editor for a local weekly journal.  

Having worked as a freelance media trainer in Rangoon for years, Ye Naing Moe has witnessed great changes in journalism. 

“Over the last 10 years, if people identified themselves as a journalist, nobody would want to talk to them, for sure. If they told their parents that they were working as a journalist, their parents wouldn’t allow them because it’s a risky job. Some of my trainees left home after they decided to work as journalists.”

The 2007 Saffron Revolution was a turning point – journalists gained a lot of respect then. 

"During the 2007 Saffron Revolution, many people recognized the role of professional journalists and citizen journalists. But at the time, the press was still under the strict control of the government. After the government relaxed restrictions on the media, many young people started working openly for the press. They’re now proud of their profession.”

In the past only weekly news papers in the official Burmese language were allowed.

But in April the countries first daily independent newspapers in different languages will hit the stands.

Meaning there is a high demand for journalism training in Burma. 

“Now, I teach every day, from morning to night. Sometimes I teach in one place in the morning, move to another in the afternoon. And at night, some young journalists come to my home to consult me.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened a journalism school in 2007 but there is no independent school.

The Non profit Organization Myanmar Journalist Network is trying to fill the gap by providing free training for young journalists. 

Myint Kyaw is the Network’s secretary. 

"Many weekly journals are now planning to launch daily newspapers. And they’re recruiting a lot of young people to report the news. These young journalists really need training.”  

Reporters Without Borders recently praised Burma as one of the few bright spots in Asia for press freedom. 

But media trainer Ye Naing Moe says unskilled journalists could jeopardize the country’s press reputation. 

“If these young journalists don't get proper training and we can't provide them with the proper journalism skills, they will do what they think is best. So these young people may misuse the practice of journalism. For example, untrained journalists won't follow the proper code of ethics. In the long term, people won't believe the press.” 

After attending the basic journalism training, 22-year-old San Mun Yar is confident she can start reporting from her home in the Kachin state. 

“There is a civil war in our state. We only have a few journalists in Burma. I realised how important the role of the media is in a democratic transition.”


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