New book takes a look at the state of Myanmar media

29 June 2019
New book takes a look at the state of Myanmar media
Photo: Liu Minerva

A newly released book, “Myanmar Media in Transition: Legacies, Challenges and Change”, was launched this week in Myanmar at the Deitta Gallery in Yangon with a number of contributors, editors and book enthusiasts in attendance. 

The book is the first attempt to analyze the media studies in Myanmar during this period of political transformation. Not only does it explore progress in journalism and press freedom, but also delves into the aspects of fiction, social media, music, filmmaking and anything else that can work as a medium of expression. This edition sheds light on ongoing challenges with different context in Myanmar, along with the means to deal with them. 

The book, co-edited by Lisa Brooten, Jane Madlyn McElhoe, Gayathry Venkiteswaran, also encompasses the diverse experiences of journalists, activists, media experts, scholars and artists, the emphasis being on local voices.

Brooten said that a few years ago, she recognized there are only collections of essays from foreign writers discussing the Myanmar media, with only few local contributions. 

She said she thought it was time to involve more local voices into the discussion as they are the ones who understand the most about the media landscape in Myanmar.

“It’s a great contribution to Burmese and media studies,” Brooten said during the book launch. The involvement of Burmese is one of the highlights in this book, making the story more factual and on-the-ground, she noted. 

Many Burmese contributed their experience and wrote chapters for this book. Some attended this event. Mon Mon Myat, who is the founder and former Executive-Director of the Myanmar Human Rights, Human Dignity International Film Festival, mentioned her participation to write a chapter “Film for Dignity” that included her experiences with events and festivals. 

Eaint Thiri Thu, a Fulbright scholar who was involved in the production of the book, talked about the input for the cover. 

“I stayed in the conflict area in Burma and witnessed many incidents. I wrote my experience in the book and drew the cover. The picture is named Twilight, which symbolizes the future of Myanmar media. I asked many people working in the field of media how they would describe Myanmar media now in one word. The words on the picture are their answers in Burmese,” she said. 

“Just as the twilight comes after sunrise or sunset, we are not sure whether the future of media will be filled up with hope or darkness,” Eaint Thiri Thu said.

The revenue of this book will be donated, said McElhoe. “We are not sure how much we can earn from this book. But we would like to contribute the money to something happening in this country. It can be any project, just anything that needs help,” she said.  

“This is the best book I’ve ever written for. Press freedom is in the age when it may fall down but we have to do something to save it,” seasoned reporter Lawi Weng said, who has been working for the Irrawaddy for nine years covering conflict and rights abuses.