Exile media faces challenge from home front

As local media becomes freer and more prolific, the days of the exile media that used to serve as the only reliable information source are over, according to reports coming out of the 20th bi-annual meeting of the Burma News International (BNI) yesterday.

The reason, they agree, is news blackout and censorship are easing. “Before 2011, Burma was a blackhole in terms of news,” said media consultant Ms Kenneth Van Toll. “Now the environment has changed. And there is a need to rethink your position.”

Moreover, there has been a significant increase in internet users (1.1 million) and mobile phones (900,000), according to Ronald Aung Naing, another consultant.

So far, 5 of its 11 member groups have obtained formal registration with the Ministry of Information: Mizzima, Khonumthung, Independent Mon News Agency, Karen Information Center and Kantarawaddy Times. Another, Shan Herald Agency for News, is preparing to submit its application.

However, the rest are adopting a wait-and-see policy, particularly the Kaladan Press, formed by ethnic Bengalis, who prefer to be known as Rohingyas. “Conditions inside Burma are still far from ideal, especially after sectarian violence (that broke out last year in Arakan State),” said editor Fayas.

Other members are Network Media Group, Kachin News Group, Phophtaw and Narinjara.
The BNI was formed in 2003 to “present a comprehensive picture of Burma and play a role in promoting an understanding of the country.” A number of local media group have expressed interest to become new members.

The 5-day bi-annual meeting and workshop, held in Chiangmai’s Mae Tang district, will conclude on 19 August.


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