Working under political restrictions – experiences from Mizzima, Myanmar
Founded in India in 1998 by Soe Myint and Thin Thin Aung, who fled to New Delhi after participating in the Burmese movement for democracy. The multimedia news organization Mizzima operated for nearly 15 years as an exile-based media organization. In the wake of democratic reforms in Myanmar, the Mizzima team moved back, and, in 2012, became the first former exile media organization to gain incorporation as a local media entity by registering in Myanmar.
Mizzima's goal is to provide high quality news about Myanmar while contributing to freedom of expression and the realization of an inclusive and democratic Myanmar – a country with over 135 ethnic groups. After the military regained power in early 2021 and their offices were shuttered, bank accounts frozen and employees arrested, Mizzima has continued to work underground.
Mizzima's resilience strategy
To maintain operations, Mizzima prepared in advance for the possibility of a military coup. They followed a detailed crisis plan, organized hide-outs, established contacts with lawyers, and bypassed the blocking of their programs by using a satellite broker stream. They had a financial emergency plan and teamed up with international organizations to stay afloat after their accounts were frozen. Mizzima discussed their needs with their audience and made sure all employees who continued to work knew and understood their policies, including a commitment that, as journalists, they would continue reporting no matter the situation. Mizzima identified their weak points and began to improve their digital security. Overall, the safety of their staff, freelancers and informants remains the most serious challenge.
Top 5 recommendations for resilience while working under political restrictions
"You should know your environment and prepare ahead; a crisis should not come as a surprise. You should know the political temperature; you should understand what the people (audience) want you to do. You cannot deal with this kind of situation without preparation."
Soe Myint, Mizzima, Myanmar