‘Democracy Road’ captures Myanmar’s audiovisual media roller coaster
Its aim was to film their media investigations and activities during the good times and the bad after the Thein Sein government opened up Myanmar’s media landscape in late 2011.
Rogne was able to closely follow the development of DVB, the country’s first independent non-profit public broadcaster, thanks to its editor-in-chief, Aye Chan Naing, 52, who returned to Yangon in February 2012. After the uprising from 1988, he went into exile as a young student, along with thousands of other students and demonstrators. The day he left home, he left a farewell note to his parents under his pillow, writing that he would be back soon. He won’t come back for 24 years.
In 1992, with the help of friends and supporters in Norway and Sweden, he established an underground radio station broadcasting from Oslo, Norway. For over a decade, DVB radio has been Myanmar’s only rock-solid independent news source. From its humble beginnings, the small radio station has grown from half an hour to an hour of broadcasting several times a day. In May 2005, with the proliferation of satellite technology, DVB launched its first satellite TV news feed.
Before the end of media censorship in 2011, ordinary people caught listening to DVB faced penalties. Due to the strict control of reporting under the military regime, the DVB editorial staff developed a network of underground journalists, known as “VJ” (video journalists), who used mini-camcorders to film and conduct interviews on the Internet. away from official eyes. Then they would find ways to get video clips out through a group of secret couriers taking flights to the Thailand-Myanmar border and other undisclosed destinations.
The most famous clip was a shoot by a Japanese photographer on September 27, 2007, recorded by a DVB reporter from a nearby rooftop, which was escaped from Myanmar and broadcast around the world.
The first half of his hour-long film Democracy Road chronicles the development of DVB in Myanmar.
The first chapter titled “The Return” follows Aye Chan Naing’s first journey home, followed by the second chapter “The Road” on the preparations and resulting anxiety about moving DVB operations to Myanmar.
The film’s most important sequences begin early when Aye Chan Naing travels to Nay Pyi Taw to meet with Information Minister Kyaw Hsan and his assistant, Ye Htut, who was later promoted to ministerial rank and served as a spokesperson. by former President U Thein Sein.
At the meeting, surprisingly, Kyaw Hsan tells him that Myanmar wants free media to promote democracy inside the country. He asks for help from DVB.
Rogne was able to document the different stages of Aye Chan Naing’s temperament. His growing anxiety as the historic meeting at the Ministry of Information approaches is evident. To allay his anxiety, he gets his hair cut at a barbershop in Bangkok, and later emerges triumphant from the reunion and its almost unbelievable outcome. DVB’s underground satellite TV channel could now operate inside Myanmar. But that’s not the end of the story.
The film examines the dramatic transformation of the broadcasting media landscape in Myanmar.
Shortly after the government announced the end of media censorship, foreign media organizations began to flock to Myanmar to provide professional and technical assistance. Almost 50 international media organizations around the world have established a full or partial presence in Yangon during this period.
The whole media landscape changed drastically, all stakeholders, especially government officials and journalists, were on a steep learning curve.
More importantly, the Burmese media in exile on various continents have decided to open offices in Yangon. Besides DVB, well-known exiled media such as Mizzima in India and Irrawaddy in Thailand have now all opened offices in Yangon. DVB, with its fierce independence and great professionalism, has played a key role in strengthening the credibility of the government and its media reform programs.
“It’s a great life experience. I was able to meet the great people of Myanmar in exile and those inside the country while traveling through the country, ”Rogne said.
Democracy Road was established this weekend in Yangon in celebration of DVB’s 25th anniversary. Public screenings in Myanmar have not yet been scheduled.
The film is a must-see documentary for those who want to understand the development of roller coaster media in Myanmar. The final chapter, titled “The Confrontation,” discusses the change in mood in the country towards the end of Thein Sein government and the elections scheduled for November 2015, which subsequently brought the National League for Democracy to power. Opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was no longer under house arrest and was now in a more powerful position than the president. Recently, DVB and Mizzima obtained licenses to produce content to be broadcast within the country.
“It is rare to be able to follow the history of emerging media,” concluded Rogne.