Article by Upendranadh Choragudi, Project Manager - Promoting Just & Democratic Governance, ActionAid Myanmar
The elections of 2015 in Myanmar heralded a significant beginning of democratic transition. For some, it generated bitter memories of deprived mandates and for a vast section of new generation, an excitement to demonstrate their allegiance to democracy.
It is in this quagmire of anxieties and enthusiasm that political parties, the Union Election Commission, civil society organisations, media and a host of other stakeholders including UN bodies, donors, INGOs, all, contributed to the processes of electioneering.
ActionAid Myanmar with its past experience of promoting active citizenship, has identified a strategic niche in working with media. In partnership with Mizzima (an erstwhile exile media), ActionAid sought to promote democratic practice through capacity building of citizen journalists, dialogues with political parties, and voter awareness programs across the country using multiple media platforms including print, TV and social media.
The engagement created all round enthusiasm especially in ethnic minority regions and towns across states/regions who seldom receive attention.
U Soe Myint, Edior-in-chief of Mizzima pointed out that: “…debate through ‘Mizzima Dialogue’ programs (events and discussions shown on TV) involving all main stake holders (political parties, the Union Election Commission and civil society organisations) created a culture of dialogue and debate within the Myanmar society”.
“We were able to discuss political manifestos during TV debates, town-hall meetings with party representatives. Certain important issues such as gender equality, disability, youth, minority, women candidates, pro-poor issues and promoting such issues through discussion and reporting were highlights in the 2015 election.”
“From a civil society and media point of view, it contributed to the greater capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in specific skills of election reporting (and for many of them for the first time in their life) across several areas. Through their reporting the citizens were informed of electoral process, election campaigning and election results. I believe these trained journalists and citizen journalists would be able to do better job in future.”
Finally, in this digital era, outcome of working with media on elections can be measured through the use of social media. Mizzima (Burmese) Facebook Page was the number one in readership in the whole country on November 8, the day election/pooling was held.