First Burma Media Seminar , Kolkata, India
After more than 40 years of military rule and oppression, Burma has lived without a free media. Internet is beyond the reach of the general public. Newspaper, radio and television are tightly controlled by the state. The official circulation of the newspaper is less than 200,000 ( 2 lakhs) in a country of more than 50 million people. Any Burmese reporter who wrote a story worth it found himself in jail - 16 continue to be imprisoned on trumped up charges. But the voice of the people and their desire cannot be stifled in the area of information revolution.
In the last few years, Burmese exiles have developed a number of Internet newspapers who feed radio stations broadcasting in Burmese language. These radio stations receiving news from these independent Burma media groups have become the principal source of news for much of Burma's population. They are also the only window for the international community on Burma.
At least 10 such newsgroups of Burmese exiles operate from Thailand, India and Bangladesh. They have developed newsgethering networks in the border regions of Burma and these networks feed not only the radio stations broadcasting in Burmese but also mainstream media in the host countries.
But belatedly, journalists working for these newsgroups have run into trouble with authorities in the host countries. The Burmese military junta who are understandably upset with the growth of independent Burmese media has been pressurizing the neighboring countries to t\crack down on these newsgroups.
Burmese Media Seminar in Kolkata, India
Mizzima News organized a three-day Burma Media Seminar in Kolkata (Calcutta) in India from 24 to 26 January 2003. The Thailand-based Burma relief Center (BRC) supported the funds for the seminar.
The objectives of the seminar are:
(1) To discuss way for working relationship amongst the Burma media organization based in India and Bangladesh,
(2) To chalk out specific (practical) future activities for cooperation.
Total 14 media personnel including representatives from Burma media organizations and human rights groups based in India and Bangladesh participated in the seminar.
Agenda and Discussions
During the three-day seminar, the participants deliberated the following topics with the help of invited resource persons. (Program details are enclosed).
(a) India Burma Relations and Issues
(b) Bangladesh-Burma Relations and Issues
(c) Burma-India-Bangladesh Relations and Issues
(d) Burma Media Coverage in India, Bangladesh and Thailand
(e) Media and Journalists inside Burma
(f) How Burma media groups can influence media in India and Bangladesh
(g) Specific future coordinated activities and cooperation
A Press Meet was also organized at the Press Club of Calcutta on 24 January 2003 to highlight the situation of Burmese journalists in Burma and outside the country.
Agreed future coordinated activities
1. The Mizzima News, the Narinjara News, the Kaladan Press Network and the Khonumthung News group agreed to establish a network, entitled " Burma News International" with the objectives of:
(a) to launch Burma and related news in the international and South Asia media, especially news agencies in India and Bangladesh,
(b) to strengthen future cooperation among the independent Burma media groups.
2. The Burma News International (BNI) will select news and articles as released by Mizzima, Narinjara Kaladan Khonumthung, and then edit and distribute stories to media in India and Bangladesh using the name of BNI. It will be an email weekly news release on every Sunday. Moreover, BNI will also try to tie up with regional and international news agencies based in India and Bangladesh.
3. Mizzima News will take the first six months as Editor and Responsible Contract for BNI. This will follow by Narinjara, Kaladan and Khonumthung for six months alternately.
4. The BNI members agreed to meet once again in six months time in Kolkata, India.
5. The members of BNI will also contact the other independent Burma media groups based in Thailand to participate in the next meeting and will also talk with them to join the BNI.
6. The Narinjara News will take responsibility for email collecting/documenting all the news/information regarding the Gas Pipeline project (Burma-Bangladesh- India) for possible future use of BNI.
1. All the participants expressed their happiness to be able to participate in the seminar and to be able to meet and discuss with other participants from different media organizations.
2. All agreed that the seminar is a successful, more successful than expected.
3. The participants requested to have this kind of meeting regularly in future as well.
4. The participants suggested to invite Burma media groups based in Thailand and China in the next meeting.
5. The participants expressed their gratitude and thanks to Mr. Gary Rozema (BRC) not only for financially at own expense. They also expressed thanks to Mizzima News for organizing such successful seminar.
Second Burma Media Seminar , Kolkata, IndiaOrganized by Burma News International
JULY 9-11, 2003 KOLKATA, INDIA
The Second Burma Media Seminar was held in Kolkata, India from July 9 to 11, 2003. It was organized by Burma News International and the Thailand-based Burma Relief Center. The seminar is a continuation of first Burma Media Seminar held in January 2003 in Kolkata, from which the Burma News International, a network of four Burma Independent Media organizations was born.
The three-day seminar was participated by the representatives of Thailand-based Network Media Group and Independent Mon News Agency (IMNA) besides the four existing members of BNI (Mizzima News, Khonumthung News, Narinjara News and Kaladan Press). Moreover, representatives from India-based Kachin News Group, Zomi Reunification Organization (ZRO) and Naga National League for Democracy (NNLD) also participated at the seminar as Observers. Burma Relief Center also joined the seminar.
The first day of seminar was also joined by some Indian supporters.
During the three-day deliberations and discussions, the participants focussed on the current activities of each organization and tried to find ways and means to cooperate each other in future. The Thailand-based Network Media Group and Independent Mon News Agency (IMNA) were admitted into the BNI as new members.
At the end of the seminar, some members of Burma News International (Mizzima News, Kaladan Press and Independent Mon News Agency) called on Mr. C.R Irini, Editor In-Chief of the Statesman Newspaper at his office in Kolkata and explained him about the activities of Burma News International. Several Internet news services in different countries carried the July 12 AP news, which covers about the seminar.