[Fellowship 2015] Covering the Coverage of the 2015 Elections in Myanmar

Application Deadline: 24 September 2015

To apply, please visit this link.

 

The coming general election in Myanmar on 8 November 2015 is historic for being the first nationwide poll in 25 years in which a national opposition party is contesting. These polls, which will elect the national and state/division parliaments of the country, represent the biggest potential watershed in moving the country away from military control since 1962.

Significantly, it will also be the first national election conducted after the relaxation of strict media controls that have been in place in the country for 50 years. Media reforms – including the abolition of news censorship, allowing private daily newspapers, and enactment of a news media law – resulted in an unprecedented availability of public information in the country, with new newspapers published at the national and local levels that reported on topics previously prohibited by the state. Journalist groups have also emerged to push for greater freedoms, and respond to the capacity building needs and to urgent arising press freedom issues.

However, the past two years have also seemingly exposed the limits of press freedom in Myanmar, with the arrest of several reporters and editors for doing their jobs. Entire news organizations have also been closed down or sued for reports that challenged government institutions. The first killing of a journalist since 2007 also happened.

These rollbacks in media freedom present an ominous sign for the media in the country, even as the community is challenged to provide unprecedented coverage of the general election, as well as to do its duty to help the public decide who to vote for.

In this context, SEAPA has selected the theme of “Media coverage of the 2015 Myanmar General Elections” to draw attention and examine different aspects of this challenge that the media community in the country during the coming elections. While international and regional attention will understandably focus on the conduct of the poll as well as its outcome, it is also important to look at how the country’s media performs in the context of this exercise.

From the contexts of the media situation and electoral exercises in their respective countries, journalists around Southeast Asia possess important perspectives that can help the local media community unpack their upcoming experience in the general election. Regional journalists can also learn their own lessons from how the media in Myanmar cope with the challenges that they share with the rest of the country, from within their role in promoting freedom of expression in the political arena.

The 2015 SEAPA Fellowship aims to contribute to facilitating a reflection among the regional media community about:

  • The role of journalists and other media practitioners during elections toward strengthening media professionalism and ethics, and promoting media freedom in Myanmar.

  • Issues faced by journalists in Burma in covering the general election, with a view toward addressing these.

Among the important sub-themes to observe within this selected theme are:

  • How is media able to access information related to the general elections?

  • How is media covering the country’s minorities and disadvantaged sectors (religious and ethnic minorities and women and children, for example)? How are they enabling these groups to make their voices heard in politics?

  • What roles are the media, as a platform for voter education, playing in highlighting election issues to promote diversity and pluralism?

  • How is social media used in the electoral exercise? What are the issues arising in social media use in politics in Myanmar?

  • What are the challenges for women journalists covering the elections? What are the measures being taken to address these challenges?
  • What are the professional and ethical challenges faced by the media in the 2015 Myanmar General Election?

  • How are media owners managing their companies in the context of the elections?

  • What other roles are journalists and media groups playing in the elections?

SEAPA will select at least five fellows who can submit interesting and viable story proposals on this topic.

Special Eligibility Criteria and considerations for 2015 Fellows:

  1. Because this year’s fellowship will focus on a specific country, the 2015 Fellowship will not accept applications from journalists from Myanmar, including those who are holding passports from other countries but are members of any ethnicity in the country. The regular criteria for accepting applicants can be found here.

  2. For this year’s fellowship, we would like to encourage applications from senior journalists, i.e. those with at least seven years of work experience, and those covering the political and/or regional beats. We emphasise, however, that the quality of the story proposals take precedence over other considerations in selection.

 

Fellowship 2015 Timetable

Activity

Date

Announcement, dissemination of the Fellowship theme

August 30

Deadline for completion of application requirements

September 24

Selection Panel review of screened applications and deliberations

September 24-27

Announcement of selected Fellows

September 28

Fellowship Proper

 October 30 to November 18

Publication and dissemination of Reports

November 20