Aye Aye Win is one of the few female journalists in Burma.
At home, she’s busy on the phone, contacting people for her stories. At the age of 60, she’s still actively working as a journalist.
She says when she was little, she wasn’t that smart.
“My father was sentenced to jail in 1965 after U Nay Win came to power in our country. He wrote letters to my siblings telling them to work hard at school. My father only told me to stay healthy.”
Her farther Sein Wein is a renowned journalist who championed press freedom in Burma.
His story about Japanese school children inspired Aye Aye Win to work harder at school.
“My father said that Japanese children worked on school lessons until 2 in the morning, because they wanted to catch up with the rest of the world. I liked that idea. There’s no reason why I couldn’t achieve more, so I worked twice as hard.”
Her father was jailed three times and banned from travelling abroad because of his work.
But journalism is in her blood....
“I was very young when I read a newspaper about the fall of South Iran and the assassination of Martin Luther King. I cut out the articles and kept them. I’ve been interested in politics since an early age.”
“ I always wanted to be like my father.”
At first, her father was against her decision...
“My father didn’t approve because it was dangerous. But then he asked me to work with him and help him. I wrote news stories for him when he was away. It took me 10 years to get his approval. We always say that it was a family coup,” she recalls.
Aye Aye Win finally took over her father’s job as a correspondent working inside Burma for an American wire service.
For more than 20 years, she covered Burma’s trials and tribulations – from the monk-led protest in 2007, to Cyclone Nargis in 2008 to the advent of a quasi-civilian government in 2011.
She was on the government’s watch list because she worked for a foreign news agency.
“We had threats from the military intelligence after articles were published. But I just follow the principles of journalism. I write and face the consequences, whatever they are. My husband used to ask me whether I preferred dry pork or meat so that when I was arrested he could send it to me.”
In 2007, she covered the monk-led demonstration against the military government in Rangoon by walking the streets while soldiers were firing at protesters.
She was recently recognised by the Missouri School of Journalism in the US for her “dedication to honest and courageous journalism”.
“Even democratic governments don’t like media watchdogs. But the media and the government can work together for the good of the people. When the media writes about corruption, the government can find out who is doing wrong and correct them.”
30-year-old Nyein Nyein Naing is an executive editor of the 7-day news – an influential local newspaper in Burma.
For her, Aye Aye Win is a role model.
“Among senior journalists, her questions are sharp. She has a smart appearance, and she asks smart questions too. I was inspired by the language that she uses to ask questions and the way she asks them. She’s not only a role model for young female journalists, but also male journalists.”
Now Aye Aye Win wants to continue her father’s work...
“I want to do something that my father has done... working towards press freedom and forming a press council,” she promises.