The Saffron Revolution in Burma in September 2007 and the following political and humanitarian crisis in Burma underscored two things at once. One, it showed how little the world—and even Southeast Asians—knows and understands about Burma. And second, it also demonstrated the power and vitality of information; how the absence of access and freedom aggravates problems, and how the inevitability of the flow of information (even trickles of it) can mitigate against even the worst of crises.
However, Burma also showed the other end of that spectrum when Cyclone Nargis struck the country on 2 May 2008, killing scores of thousands of Burmese and leaving one million homeless in the wake of its destructive trail. This time, the dire lack of information that has characterised the four-decade-plus military rule in the country revealed its devastating impact—there was no warning of the cyclone, nor notice of evacuation, leading to the death of thousands caught in the cyclone’s path and the tidal wave that followed. In the aftermath of the natural disaster, the continued restriction on information and reporting of the damage and needs of survivors killed thousands more, turning it into a human-made catastrophe.
The 2008 Journalism Fellowship is aimed at contributing to greater interest and deeper understanding of Burmese issues among the region’s press.
The 2008 Fellows:
Estrelita Cruz Valderama, a Filipino, has 25 years extensive experience as training director, editor, writer, and field reporter for print and online media. When the 1986 EDSA people power revolution happened, she was on an on-the-job training as a cub reporter with People’s Journal, a newspaper run by a brother of then First Lady Imelda Marcos. She has covered a wide variety of beats from police to various government agencies, to to President Corazon C. Aquino, to the aborted impeachment trial of movie actor turned President Joseph Estrada. Valderama also covered both houses of the Philipine Congress, and the anti-graft court. In between, Valderama attended the Jefferson Fellowships of the East-West Center in Honolulu and the mainland USA in 2003. Then, she was invited to join the reputable and internationally recognized Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 2008 as a senior writer/researcher and as head of its training desk. Since August 2009, she had organized, supervised and conducted more than a dozen training seminars on covering elections in the Philippines and another two seminars in Thailand for Burmese journalists, also on covering elections.
Ati Nurbaiti is the managing editor of the Jakarta Post in Indonesia
Maruli Tobing is a Kompas journalist based in Jakarta.
Patricia Evangelista is a columnist at the Philippine Daily Inquirer in Manila.
Spot report: Burma crossing
Achara Ashayagachat is a senior reporter at the Bangkok Post in Thailand.
Spot report: Political storm brewing
Thanappon Chaipaisi is the foreign news chief at Thailand’s Post Today.
Hariati Melati Kesuma bt Azizan is a reporter of The Star newspaper in Malaysia.