A delegation from Myanmar's first independent journalism school have visited DW Akademie in Germany to find out about how they teach their journalism trainees.
Delegates from Myanmar's first independent journalism school have visited DW Akademie in Germany to find out about how DW teaches their journalism trainees.
"So is this really good enough for professional radio?" asks Sein Win, Training Director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute (MJI), as he knocks on the wooden door of the small audio booth used by DW trainees.
"Don’t worry, it might not look high tech but it still records high-quality sound," DW trainer Michael Karhausen assures him. "Rather than investing in high-end equipment that does more than we need it to, we invest our efforts in getting the trainees to work creatively and come up with new ideas in the traineeship."
Sein Win nods, pulls out a pen and makes a note before starting to ask detailed questions about how DW selects its 12 journalism trainees from hundreds of applicants.
"I'm learning a lot from DW. Not only about ways of teaching but also all about organizing such a program, from choosing trainees to providing equipment," says Sein Win, who is coupling a visit to DW's Global Media Forum with the chance to find out more about how DW runs its 18-month journalism training program.
Sein Win and his colleagues are in the process of implementing a newly developed curriculum – a 12 month full-time program along the lines of the hands-on journalism traineeships common in countries like Germany (where it's called a volontariat) or the United Kingdom.
The MJI, which opened its doors in Yangon in July 2014, is the first independent journalism institute in the country in more than 50 years. It offers both entry-level journalism training as well as further education for working journalists – and its first batch of part-time students has just graduated.
Dire need for professional training
It is only after Myanmar abandoned decades of dictatorship in 2011 and sweeping political reforms were subsequently ushered in, that such a journalism training facility could prosper.
Under military rule, reporters had to submit their works to censors before publication. This practice of pre-publication censorship was abolished in 2012 and freedom of speech is gradually improving in Myanmar - it ranked 169 out of 179 countries in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index in 2012 but climbed to 144th place in 2015.
However, the government still controls a significant part of the media landscape (such as all broadcast media, for example) and local and international observers have expressed their concerns over excessive legal action being taken against journalists.
Liberate journalism from the legacy of propaganda
Against this backdrop, one of the major challenges for MJI is to make students understand the responsibilities that come with media freedom. Sein Win says it is vital for students to learn the basics of journalistic investigation, which includes the ability to separate facts from rumors.
"That is an important message we tell all our students," Sein Win says.
Remaining neutral, making use of multiple sources and keeping personal beliefs out of the story are core ethics that students are expected to internalize during their studies at the institute, he says.
During his visit to the trainee’s seminar room, Sein Win chats to Ashutosh Pandey, a 2015 DW trainee from India. Along with his fellow trainees, Pandey was covering the Global Media Forum on a Tumblr blog, producing articles, videos and multimedia pieces.
This cross-media approach, a fundamental element of DW’s traineeship, catches Sein Wins attention and he listens enthusiastically as Pandey elaborates on how he uses his mobile phone to produce an online multimedia piece.
Mobile reporting is something he would love to implement at the institute, Sein Win says.
As the rest of the Myanmar delegation leaves to attend another workshop at the Global Media Forum, Sein Win pockets his notepad.
"I hope to see you in Myanmar one day," he says with a bright smile as he makes his way out of the lab.