More a Red Herring Than a Harbinger of Democracy: Myanmar’s Experiment With Media Freedom and Domestic Media Coverage of the Rohingya

Halle M. Young, Nicole Anderson, Mona S. Kleinberg, Jenifer Whitten-Woodring


Fostering media freedom has long been considered a means of spreading democracy. Yet, we know little about what happens to journalists and news coverage when governments ease media restrictions. How do journalists adjust when the rules surrounding journalism shift from clear and restrictive to unclear and seemingly less restrictive? Myanmar offers an opportunity to investigate these questions. Its initial steps toward democratization included the abolishment of overt censorship that coincided with an increase in violence toward the Rohingya. We focus on the efforts of a domestic, privately owned newspaper to cover this violence critically. Our comparison of a privately owned newspaper and a state-run newspaper shows that the private paper initially pushed for government accountability but eventually changed course and became more similar to the state-run paper. This study provides a snapshot of how media liberalization during political transition can be undercut if media freedom is not guaranteed and censorship lingers.



media freedom, censorship, Myanmar, Rohingya, democratization, Facebook

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