IPI (International Press Institute) and IMS (International Media Support) today announced that Myanmar Now, a trailblazing news organization dedicated to investigating and exposing human rights violations in Myanmar, is the recipient of the 2023 IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer award.
In addition to recognizing Myanmar Now’s powerful human rights and public-interest reporting in particular, the awards jury underscores its solidarity with all independent journalists in- and outside Myanmar still courageously working to deliver the news despite the crackdown on press freedom following the February 2021 military coup.
The Free Media Pioneer award is presented annually to organizations meeting the demands of the moment through innovative models of journalism, media, or press freedom defence. They are opening up new ways of thinking about the free flow of information to strengthen independent journalism and meet the needs of their communities. IPI established the award in 1996. It is now given annually in partnership with IMS. This year, 10 organizations globally were shortlisted for the Free Media Pioneer award.
This year’s Free Media Pioneer award will be presented together with the IPI-IMS World Press Freedom Hero Award at a special ceremony at the 2023 IPI World Congress in Vienna on the evening of May 25. Myanmar Now is the second media outlet from the country to receive the Free Media Pioneer award, after Mizzima Media in 2007.
A courageous commitment to independent, investigative journalism
Published in Burmese and English, Myanmar Now is an independent and award-winning online news site that was established in 2015. It produces fact-based and in-depth reporting on issues of public interest, including human rights, social justice, corruption, and politics. Following the Myanmar military’s democracy-crushing coup of February 2021, Myanmar Now was targeted by the military junta as part of a systematic crackdown on the country’s independent media. The military raided the newsroom of Myanmar Now, confiscated and damaged equipment, and revoked its operating license, declaring the news service an illegal entity. In an attempt to silence and undermine the credibility of Myanmar Now, authorities filed lawsuits against Swe Win, chief correspondent and editor-in-chief, and a group of editors on baseless charges of illegal association and terrorism. Multiple journalists from Myanmar Now have been threatened, assaulted, and detained.
Despite the daily risks of working as a journalist under a military dictatorship, the journalists at Myanmar Now continue to fearlessly report the truth and pursue justice for the people of Myanmar. Some of the team at Myanmar Now have been forced into exile and continue to work from Australia and Thailand. Exile journalism carries risks, and Myanmar Now’s reporters take extra precautions to protect the identity of sources and the safety of family members who remain in Myanmar. Some of the Myanmar Now team continue to report from Myanmar at great personal risk, with multiple reporters working “underground” in cities and in areas controlled by the military. Despite unprecedented difficulties, the team at Myanmar Now has continued to deliver critical news to an estimated monthly audience of eight million at home in Myanmar and around the world.
The military continues its deadly assault on independent media, press freedom
The story of Myanmar Now is the story of independent media in Myanmar since the military took power in a violent coup d’état, ending nearly a decade of democratic progress. Since 2021, the Myanmar military has carried out an unrelenting media crackdown to silence journalists, restrict access to information, and destroy the memory of a democratic Myanmar. The military junta has shut down multiple independent outlets, repeatedly blocked access to the internet and mobile data, restricted content on websites and social media platforms, and intensified its surveillance of media newsrooms. Journalists who continue to work in the country face a risk of harassment, military searches and raids, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, and imprisonment. Citizen journalists, sources, and anybody associated with the media are also at high risk of arrest and imprisonment, making it increasingly difficult for journalists to access real-time information. Myanmar has become the third-worst jailer of journalists globally, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). According to IPI monitoring, four journalists in Myanmar have been killed since February 2021, all suspectedly at the hands of the military.
“For the past two years, the military regime has used extreme force, every administrative and legal tool at its disposal to silence independent media and wipe out democracy and human rights in Myanmar”, IPI Executive Director Frane Maroević said. “Despite unimaginable violence and loss, journalists continue to report the news in the pursuit of truth and justice. We are extremely honored to announce Myanmar Now as this year’s IPI-IMS Free Media Pioneer. The Myanmar Now journalists’ courage and commitment to independent, professional journalism despite the brutal crackdown is an inspiration to IPI members and defenders of democracy around the world. With this award, we stand in solidarity with the journalists at Myanmar Now and at all other independent Myanmar media, both in exile and in the country, who endure daily trauma to expose human rights abuses and wrongdoing by the military. There is no democracy without a free press, and we recognize the bravery of the independent journalists who are at the frontlines of the principled fight for Myanmar’s democratic future, a future where the people of Myanmar can freely exercise their universal rights and basic fundamental freedoms.”
“Two years in since the military coup most Myanmar media are limited in their ability to gather information and journalists are taking risks to keep reporting. Despite enormous obstacles Myanmar Now continues to uphold high journalistic standards and insist on investigative reporting despite the risks involved. They deserve so much praise for this – but really, all media workers in Myanmar deserve a prize for their tenacity and perseverance in their herculean efforts of holding the military to account and provide reliable information to their audiences,” says IMS Director Jesper Højberg.
+43 676 385 7109