DW Akademie invited Myanmar's deputy Information Minister, U Ye Htut, to attend DW's Global Media Forum held recently in Bonn.
Myanmar is undergoing an extensive transformation process, said the minister. "The Global Media Forum has given me an opportunity to meet people from countries which have experienced similar restructuring processes." This was the first time that a high-ranking Myanmar politician had attended the forum.
Over the last few years this southeast Asian country has begun democracy-oriented reforms, and these are also affecting the media. "We’re aiming to restructure the media environment and move it towards a public media system," said the minister. During the past few months Myanmar had looked at models in Scandinavia, France and Germany, he said. "We now need support for creating a new system and for transforming the state media into a private or a public media system."
According to U Ye Htut, currently the biggest challenge is the lack of training possibilities for up-and-coming journalists. DW Akademie and the minister discussed this at length on the sidelines of the conference. "We'd like to build a training center for journalists in Yangon," said Ye Htut, "together with DW Akademie as well as with France's media development organization, CFI, and the Danish International Media Support." Discussions on how this could be done had already started with Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, he said.
DW Akademie recognizes the need for support: countless daily newspapers are appearing on the market and community radios are planned for the provinces. Throughout the country, however, there is a dearth of trained editors, reporters and media managers.
The media were heavily censored for decades, said Ye Htut, and the political arena now had to rethink old strategies and learn new ones. "We'd like to develop democratic structures and a media system that is self-sustained and no longer under political control. But," he added, "we still have a long way to go."
DW Akademie is currently developing a comprehensive support strategy for Myanmar. Potential areas of support include reforming state media, journalism training, media (self-) regulation and the setting up of community media.