The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, has announced its decision to honour the Mizzima News Agency with its 2007 Free Media Pioneer Award. Mizzima joins two others in the SEAPA network to have been so honoured in the past – a SEAPA founding member, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), Indonesia (1997), and the independent online newspaper Malaysiakini.com (2001).
Managing Editor Sein Win will receive the prize on behalf of Mizzima News at an award ceremony on 15 May 2007, during the IPI World Congress in Istanbul, Turkey (12-15 May).
Mizzima News was founded in August 1998 by a small group of Burmese journalists in exile with the declared aim of “promoting awareness about the ongoing situation in Burma and promoting democracy and freedom of expression in Burma by improving the flow of information in and out of the country and through advocacy and lobbying.” Today, it has a head office in New Delhi, India, as well as a news bureau in Thailand, and a team of some 30 employees, including Burmese and foreign journalists, in Bangladesh, Burma, China, India and Thailand.Burma’s military government has tried to limit Mizzima’s ability to collect and disseminate information, pressuring the Thai government in 2005 to relocate Burmese refugees, including journalists, to camps near the border with Burma, where they were denied access to the Internet, phone lines and other means of keeping in touch with their sources of information. In 2006, the military government started a clampdown on anybody who provides information to foreign news outlets. New phone tapping facilities, as well as training programmes for agents in the Military Security Force to identify and arrest foreign media “informants”, are used by the government to make sure that no uncensored information is distributed.Against this backdrop, Mizzima News has continued to provide accurate and timely news and information on Burma for both Burmese and English readers and viewers, including a daily e-mail service; websites (www.mizzima.com and www.mizzima.tv); a monthly journal, which is often the only source of print news for exiled Burmese, particularly those living on Thailand’s western border with Burma; videos and podcasts; and alerts on press freedom violations.