Monday, January 31, 2011

The future of the exiled media

Monday, 31 January 2011 13:39 Mizzima News

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Burmese exiled media is undergoing some funding cuts by international donors and governments, both in response to the worldwide financial crisis and policy changes among donor groups and governments. Mizzima reporter Tun Tun talks with Burma Media Association (BMA) chairman Maung Maung Myint on the implications, the change in policies and the affect on Burmese exiled media.

Q: How does BMA view the current cuts in funding and the policy changes that are underway?

A: The financial and funding cuts will affect most of our Burmese exiled media. In fact, it is only the free, exiled-based media that can disseminate impartial news to people both inside and outside Burma.

Now the junta is convening its Parliament shortly. Some of the donors believe these cosmetic changes offer opportunities and are ready to go inside Burma and give funding to organisations inside and to try to co-operate with the new government. There are many such donor governments and organisations. I must say they are wrong if they believe they can work with the new government and give funding to the organizations inside instead.

No matter what government appears in Burma, it will be controlled by the military under the current circumstances. And the military tightly controls the media. The governments, NGOs and INGOs that work in Burma can not know what the government is doing and how it governs without the free exiled media. The organisations that currently face financial difficulties are not only the small organizations but also the big media organisations such as the BBC and DVB. These financial difficulties affect them too. Its impact affects almost the entire media world that the Burmese people rely on for real news and information.

Q: If this trend continues, what will be the long term effects?

A: At the least, the exiled media will let some of their staff go and reduce their output of news and other information. Some of them will stop the publication of their print media and or reduce their publication of other printed matter.

But the Burmese exiled media has struggled for a long time. It has grown from nothing to what it is today. The people who work on these publications will not give up even through the donors stop or shift their funds. All will keep working, keep the movement going. This is how I see them.

Q: Is the current funding cut largely a change in policies among donors? What is the change?

A: It’s a variety of views and factors. Some believe that the atmosphere inside Burma is changing and that there are new opportunities inside the country and more work should be done there.

We shouldn’t be too upset and disappointed because many foreign governments such as the US administration still believe there is no genuine progress yet in Burma, and they must continue to provide financial assistance, while some other countries, including some Asean countries, are currently advocating a reverse in their policy towards the Burmese government and offer financial assistance to them in various ways.

Generally speaking in my overall view, the international governments and other organizations have not had yet made drastic policy changes towards Burma. But the current economic crisis in the US and in Europe adversely affects their people and that affects their overseas financial assistance. This is the main reason, I think.

Q: Do you think there will be more such cuts in the future? How do you see this problem?

A: We cannot say exactly what will be the next step after the current round of cuts. If it becomes clear that the cuts have adversely set back conditions in Burma, we may regain our previous funding levels. The other factor is the global economic crisis especially in Western countries. If the economy of these countries picks up again from the recession we are likely to get our funding back.

The next factor is the domestic political situation. If the military regime engages in dialogue and negotiations for national reconciliation with the NLD and ethnic parties as Western countries are demanding, the domestic Burmese media might be the priority for their funding. The exiled media could suffer in that situation.

So generally speaking, it depends on how the situation inside Burma plays out. That is probably what will effect the exiled media the most.

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