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Myanmar Journalists’ Views on Reporting and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

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Over the course of two days, the 11th Asia-Europe Foundation Journalists’ Seminar was held in Nay Pyi Taw on 18th and 19th November 2017 mainly focused on how best to implement the UN’s 17 points of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through reporting effectively and efficiently.

The 11th Asia-Europe Foundation Journalists’ Seminar was organized by the Ministry of Information (MOI) and the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF). About 40 journalists from 53 member countries of ASEF attended and collaborated along with senior journalists from media outlets from Burma/Myanmar.

The seminar began on the morning of 18th November with a speech from Dr. Pe Myint, Minister of Information of the Union of Myanmar Government followed by a speech from ASEF Executive Director Mr. Karsten Warnecke. The seminar was held in Tungapuri Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw and consisted of a panel discussion, training workshops on the matters of ‘constructive journalism,’ ‘proactive reporting on climate change,’ and the role of the media centered around applying the 17 points of SDGs.

The UN’s 17 points of SDGs are: 1. No poverty; 2. Zero hunger; 3. Good health and well-being; 4. Quality education; 5. Gender equality; 6. Clean water and sanitation; 7. Affordable and clean energy; 8. Decent work and economic growth; 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure; 10.Reduced inequalities; 11. Sustainable cities and communities; 12. Responsible consumption and production; 13. Climate action; 14. Life below water; 15. Life on land; 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions and 17. Partnership for the goals.

11th Asia-Europe Foundation Journalists’ Seminar (Photo: MNA)

A Danish journalist, Ms. Sophie Hytter of the World’s Best News, raised the idea of ‘constructive journalism’ in order to positively report on the global governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations’ implementation of SDGs. She stressed that although journalists need to report the truth, they may also include some of the best solutions for the issues. ‘Constructive journalism’ is solution-focused rather than concentrating solely on reporting negative facts.

Mr. Myint Kyaw from Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN) said that in Burma/Myanmar, for example, journalists still struggle with accessing government information and therefore, cannot offer constructive reporting on the issues of SDGs.

He said “many government departments [in Myanmar government] are still afraid to provide information and facts to journalists and media because they don’t know which information are possible to give to or which are not. Most information in the government’s departments are labeled as ‘secret’, and the people has lost their rights to know what are happening in all sectors.”

The ASEF Journalists mainly discussed the issues of how journalists in both Asia and Europe can report on the implementations and developments of SDGs. They also highlighted the role of journalists as educators to empower the public with information specifically within the SDGs.

Mr. Myint Kyaw remarked again that the capacities among the editors and journalists in Burma/Myanmar are still too low to know the statistics concerning the 17 points of SDGs in the country and therefore, cannot effectively report on these issues. They need to learn more about the SDGs and investigate the state of these in the country to report on these issues abiding by journalistic standards and ethics.

He stressed that, “Among 17 goals, some are unreachable in the situation of Myanmar. We need to prioritize such as the goals for anti-poverty, education and health. We no need to cover everything. Because some goals are a bit far from Myanmar people such as responsible consumption and production.”

Mr. Myint Kyaw suggested that the Myanmar government implement ‘rights to information’ or ‘access to information’ laws to widely report the UN set goals for sustainable development. Only then can the editors and journalists ethically decide which goals ought to be prioritized.

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