Burma’s national journalism awards will be awarded for the first time in decades. The awards will be given to honor individual journalists by the country’s National Press Award Committee on 18th of March.
The National Press Award Committee – a selection committee representing members of the Myanmar Writers and Journalists Association (MWJA), independent journalists and officials from the state Press Scrutiny Board, will present the journalism award, known as the National Press Award.
Burma has a reputation as one of the most oppressive countries for journalists to work in. The Press Scrutiny Board – the country’s censors – drove many of Burma’s journalists to seek refuge in neighboring countries.
The international journalist watchdog, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, ranked Burma 169 out of 179 countries in its 2011/12 annual press freedom index.
Burma based journalists told Karen News that in spite of the recent political reforms many reporters are still cautious about what they cover. Win Aung works for a big city weekly magazine and says he is still cautious what he writes about.
“There are signs of change, but it is early days yet. When we have the new media law we will be in a better position to judge.”
U Win Nyein, secretary of the National Press Award Committee said the award event was initially planned for February, but due to delay in preparation for the awards, the ceremony has been postponed to 18th of March – it is intended to hold it at the National Theater in Rangoon.
“We had to make the award plaques in Bangkok, Thailand. They came back late, so the event has been postponed.”
U Win Nyein says the awards will be presented to journalists who produced the best news article, feature, editorial, photos essay and cartoons in 2011. The selection of award winners will be carried out by senior journalists in each respective field and each award winner will get a million Kyat, a plaque and an award certificate.
There are five nominees for each award and award committee sources said that a feature story, the “Story of Ramayana told by Daw Aung San Su Kyi”, written by Aung San Su Kyi and published in the News Watch Journal has been selected as one of the five nominees for best feature award.
U Kyaw Yin Myint, a member of MWJA said that journalists are working hard and they deserve recognitions.
“I notice journalists are trying harder now. So, we want to present them with awards in recognition of their work and as encouragement for their future work.”
According to an announcement letter issued by the National Press Award Committee, the criteria and standards for the awards include – truth, strong facts, good presentation, educational and for cartoons and photo essays they should be unique, of historical value, reflect on current events and be interesting for readers.
The National Press Award committee was initially formed with 20 members in 2011 and it aims to honor journalists who are critical and report the truth.