In an effort to promote peace and cross-cultural dialogue among Myanmar ethnic media groups, the project “Online media for peace” was implemented by UNESCO and Burma News International (BNI) within the framework of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) between March 2014 and February 2015.
Online media draw on extensive news-gathering operations using sources from a variety of media such as Facebook, blogs and Twitter, and is becoming a powerful tool for promoting freedom of expression in the digital era, especially in the countries in transition.
The IPDC project “Online media for peace” was initiated with the aim of establishing an online media that can serve as a platform for sharing and exchanging news and information among Myanmar ethnic media groups.
The activities of the project included not only creating an online media platform but also editorial trainings for 32 ethnic media professionals in Myanmar, including reporters, journalists and editors, in Yangon in December 2014, and in Mandalay in January 2015.
In order to examine the expected results and the impacts of the project, an informal evaluation has been conducted by UNESCO’s Office in Bangkok in October 2015, using a variety of methods for data collection such as online survey with editorial training participants, interviews with key stakeholders and desk research.
The evaluation found that the project resulted in the achievement of several expected results. In particular, most of survey respondents stated that editorial trainings were very useful and relevant for them in engaging with the online media platforms. Mr Nai Kasauh Mon, the Director of production at BNI, stressed in his interview: “We heard very positive feedback from participants after two editorial trainings, and this experience allowed us to communicate more effectively than ever fostering our strong network.”
Two websites in English and Burmese were also created by BNI, along with a Facebook page. At present, the Facebook page has more than 20,000 subscribers and websites are also well-run under the management of BNI. One survey respondent mentioned: “I felt that I contribute to the intercultural dialogue when I discuss ethnic conflict issues like Shanni and Kachin, Rohingya and Arakan on the website. I wish I could have more interactions with other ethnic media groups in the future.”
However, the evaluation also highlighted ongoing challenges like low engagement of training participants on the websites, despite their high satisfaction on the trainings and the challenging media environments in the country as a whole in order for the ethnic media to actively contribute to online exchange.
Based on the findings, three main recommendations were made. Firstly, strengthening a connection between trainings and the websites by setting a clear criteria for selecting training participants. Secondly, having an in-house translator at BNI in order to facilitate translation and enhance quality journalism content online. Lastly, promoting the active use of social media for a greater interactive exchange of information and news among ethnic media groups, as well as international audiences.
The IPDC is the only multilateral forum in the UN system designed to mobilize the international community to discuss and promote media development in developing countries. The Programme not only provides support for media projects but also seeks an accord to secure a healthy environment for the growth of free and pluralistic media in developing countries.