Mya Yi Nyo Lwin (pseudonym) introduces Lu Nge Khit, a new media organisation by and for the youth of Myanmar today.
Read the Burmese version of this post here.
Lu Nge Khit, the era of youth, is a small media organisation formed by young journalists in Myanmar on Monday, 13 September, when they held their very first newsroom meeting. The founding group of journalists, from a variety of backgrounds, all shared a desire to unite and create a new platform to fill the huge information void left by the military coup on 1 February. A string of subsequent measures inflicted on the people by the Tatmadaw, first as the “State Administration Council” and now as a “Caretaker Government” have stymied access to information across the country.
Soon after Senior General Min Aung Hlaing fronted the cameras on 8 February, seemingly confused at the millions-strong rejection of his poorly thought-out grab, the Tatmadaw began increasing murders, detentions and other attacks on civilians and peaceful protesters, and banned existing media houses, starting with those most extensively covering the anti-coup protests. The Tatmadaw raided offices, explicitly targeted journalists for abduction and tortured them on the street and in shadow detention centres.
The Detained Journalists Information Group and Reporting ASEAN has counted a total of 102 journalists arrested, of whom 48 are still detained, including American Danny Fenster. Four media houses have been charged under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code and seven media houses have had their publishing licenses revoked. Although some organisations have managed to relocate staff to areas in the country outside of the Tatmadaw’s control and continue reporting, others, such as 7 Day News Journal and The Voice Daily, have completely ceased their operations. Myanmar is now “the country without newspapers”: for the last seven months since March 17, 2021, Myanmar has not had a single independent print newspaper in publication.
Since 1 February, as the Tatmadaw’s horrific subjugation of the nation’s people has increased, so has public access to information decreased. After initially imposing nationwide internet blackouts, the Tatmadaw has shifted to employing strategic township-level blackouts, with 25 townships still affected this month. Some of the military’s most egregious crimes and massacres in rural areas take place under these blackouts.
One consequence of increasing challenges to accessing information is a rise in the spread of propaganda, “fake news”, disinformation and misinformation. Access to accurate and balanced information is crucial in this time of crisis. In such an unsafe reporting environment, media organisations are now––more than ever–– dependent on citizen journalists. Organisations struggle every day to verify sources and claims from these brave people on the ground, who are shot at, beaten and arrested by security forces and their proxies if caught filming newsworthy events.
At the same time, many young journalists have lost their jobs and others are in hiding, with either no income or with meagre support from the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Even though activists have been shouting out loud that “Journalism is Not a Crime”, reporters are being treated as criminals under the military regime. The story of one of our own reporters, pseudonym Ko Y, illustrates this.
Ko Y was arrested earlier this year while reporting on mass street protests in Yangon. He was held in Insein prison for three months. When released, the newspaper he worked for had stopped publishing due to having its license revoked by the military.
“While I was in prison in March, I heard the news that my newspaper had stopped printing and I felt helpless. For me, it is not only about me losing my job, but also about losing press freedom in our country,” he said.
Nevertheless, Ko Y is eager to continue reporting under the military regime and went into hiding after joining Lu Nge Khit. As a newsroom team member of Lu Nge Khit, he risks his life along with the rest of the team and Myanmar’s thousands of citizen journalists every day. Ko Y says, “I’m glad that I can continue my work reporting conflicts over the country. It makes me feel confident that I’m reporting right and accurate news for the people who need it”.
Lu Nge Khit was formed to be a bridge between the people of Myanmar––who deserve easier access to journalism of the highest standard––and journalists with the passion and skills to pursue the verification and reporting of news needed to meet this essential right to information. As part of this goal, one of Lu Nge Khit’s missions is to target and support youths with information useful for them and their generation. The majority of the Lu Nge Khit team lived their childhood and adolescence under the military regime before the changes of the decade from 2010-2020, but we were also shaped by that decade and its opportunities, helping us to understand the profound concerns facing Myanmar’s youth of today.
Many of my own childhood memories are filled with military propaganda. It is a shame, but I believed it all then. It was hard for me in my young age to find job and opportunities. Access to information is a basic human right and we do not want today’s youth to suffer from a lack of information like we did.
Lu Nge Khit is also intended to be a platform for youth, enabling and supporting young people to raise and express their own voices. As a first step, we are developing an online program for youth to share their experiences, their concerns and opinions. The program will be open to all young people in the country, and more information will be available soon.
Another mission of Lu Nge Khit is to create opportunities for journalists and try to rebuild the devastated media industry in Myanmar. Lu Nge Khit cannot hire all the journalists who have been forced out of work by the Tatmadaw, but it can create opportunities for those journalists who are particularly energetic and keen to continue their career during this terrifying crisis. At present, a team of seven reporters and three editors are running the newsroom in collaboration with a video editor and a translator.
Please visit Lu Nge Khit and like/follow its Facebook page, which is currently the best way to stay engaged with the organisation. We are currently in the process of setting up a website and other secure media channels to reach the people of Myanmar, but for now, Facebook remains our central distribution service.
Mya Yi Nyo Lwin (pseudonym) is the managing editor of Lu Nge Khit and also works with INGOs supporting journalists in Myanmar. Before the coup, they worked as a journalist and at various media development organisations in the communications sector.