In June, Thomas Oppermann (SPD), Vice President of the German Bundestag, visited the community radio Khayae FM in Htan Tabin, Myanmar. During his visit, he discussed the role of local media for democratic development.
Mr. Oppermann, what were your expectations when you came to Htan Tabin today?
O: Well, this is my first trip to Myanmar. I have heard and read a lot about this country. It is a country that for a long time did not have contact to the world. But now it has opened up and established a democratic government. People can use their right to vote. The military still has a lot of influence but this is the right way to make Myanmar a democratic country. And all other democratic countries are happy about this development and would like to support this.
Which role do you think local community media can play in this?
O: In a democracy it is important that you have communication. People must get information so that they are able to participate in the decision making process. A good radio has to entertain people and provide reliable information. This means news, which are relevant for local affairs. Khayae FM is a fascinating radio as it is run by volunteers. Your work is highly interesting, because you can learn a lot and you can acquire skills, which might be useful in other situations.
Can you give some examples from your country about community radio or local media?
O: Oh yes! In Germany, we have private and public radio. The public radio is controlled by boards in which all different groups of our society are represented. And then we also have public and private local radios. Both are very successful. People in Germany listen to the radio very often, for example around breakfast time or in the car. Even though we have television and other media, radio remains very important.
Mr. Oppermann, how do you keep in touch with the voters in your constituency? Do you hold regular meetings or do you use local media to communicate?
O: That is an interesting question because my work at the parliament depends on a close contact to the people. I need to know what the people think and what they need. Therefore I hold frequent town hall meetings where my voters come together and we discuss different topics. In the summer I always go on a trip through my constituency and I meet many people in their working places or in public places. I specifically visit spots which are known to have problems. This way I try to get a direct feedback from my voters. I also release press articles and give interviews to the media in my constituency.
And one more question: Do you have any suggestion for our Khayae FM community radio?
O: Just keep doing the radio work! That is really important. Democracy needs local radios and democracy needs communication and people who know how to organize broadcasting. You are pioneers in a way and I admire you for that. You will be the ones who will be the journalists of Myanmar in the future. You will be the ones who inform the people about what is going on, to help them understand the complex world. I wish you good luck. Keep doing the good work. Germany will support that.
The interview was conducted by Khayae FM host Nan Yu Hlaing. The community radio station was build up with support by DW Akademie and was officially launched in February 2018.