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  • Atina Dimitrova

Journalists Still at Risk in Myanmar

Updated: Nov 6, 2019

This month marks two years since the Rohingyas began a mass refugee influx into Bangladesh. The Rohingya refugee crisis continues today with uncertainty about repatriation efforts. During this time, local journalists have put themselves at risk covering this and other stories.

Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo made headlines this year when they were released after 500 days in prison. So has anything changed for journalists?

In today’s episode we interview four local journalists to better understand the current situation in Myanmar and the risks they’ve taken to report in their country.

Presented by: Dr. Glenda Cooper and Dr. Lindsey Blumell

Produced by: Atina Dimitrova

More about the journalists interviewed:

Sonny Swe

Sonny is a pioneer in the Myanmar media industry with more than 20 years’ experience. In 2000, he co-founded The Myanmar Times – the first Myanmar-foreign joint venture in Myanmar’s media industry – and is also a former CEO of the Mizzima Media Group, which published a daily newspaper, a weekly English Magazine, news websites. He established Black Knight Media, publisher of Frontier Myanmar, in 2015.

Thinzar Shunlei Yi

Thinzar Shunlei Yi is a youth advocate and activist based in Yangon. She received B.Ed Degree from Yangon University of Education. She is experienced in meaningful youth engagement, dialogues and peace-building and local governance. Her current main focus is Freedom of Expression. She is currently charged under the Protest Law and has been facing trial for a year now, after she co-organized an anti-civil war protest in 2018. She works with Action Committee for Democracy Development as Advocacy Coordinator working with 12 grassroots networks across 9 States/Regions since 2016 and is campaigning for administration pillar reform. She co-initiated 1st Myanmar Youth Forum in 2012, co-organized ASEAN Youth Forum 2014 and led the National Youth Policy Development Process in Myanmar in 2016. For her efforts on positive social change, she was awarded “Emerging Young Leaders Award” by U.S Department of States in 2016 and "Women of the Future South East Asia award" in 2019. She also weekly hosts a TV Show named "Under 30 Dialogue" which she co-founded with Mizzima TV and discusses various and sensitive political issues with prominent youth leaders across sectors.

Ei Shwe Zin (aka Nyein Nyein)

Ei Shwe Zin is a journalist and writes under the penname “Nyein Nyein” at The Irrawaddy Online News: an independent media outlet, which covers Myanmar and South East Asia. As an associate editor, her work includes contributing story ideas, coordination with senior editors, news editors, copy editors and reporters in planning and production of digital publications. Her strong focus is reporting on ongoing peace talks in Myanmar, the socio-political and ethnic issues in conflict areas, women and gender, as well as rural migration and environmental implications. She holds a communication degree, majoring in Journalism from the Griffith University, Australia. Prior to becoming a journalist in 2011, Shwe Zin was a social worker in Mae Sot at the Thailand-Myanmar border for six years. Her works can be followed at

Si Thu Aung (aka Maung Saungkha)

Maung Saungkha is the executive director of ATHAN, an activist organization he founded to promote the right to freedom of expression in Myanmar. He writes poetry and opinion articles for magazines and journals. As a political activist, he led a white armbands campaign to protest government crackdown on student protests in 2015. He was sentenced to six months in jail in May 2016 after he was convicted of defaming then president Thein Sein in a poem he posted on Facebook, called “Image.” This made him the first activist jailed under the controversial anti-defamation provision, Article 66(d). of the Telecommunications Law. Soon after his release from prison, he started a campaign to amend the notorious law. In December 2018, Maung Saungkha received the Human Rights Tulip Award for promoting freedom of expression in Myanmar. Maung Saungkha was awarded 2019 Shwe Amyu Tay Poetry Award for his poem, "Living Rivers Painfully Scream", published in Chindwin magazine in January 2019.

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