GlobalPost’s year-long investigation of Myanmar’s emergence onto the global scene takes a hard look beyond the fairy tale narrative of a reform movement with uncompromising reporting on how decades of oppression are casting a long shadow over the country’s economy and people. The series exemplifies the kind of feature reporting—requiring extraordinary resourcefulness and having real-world impact—that is the hallmark of the Online Journalism Awards.
“Myanmar Emerges” is an ambitious reporting project that details one of the biggest global stories of 2013 with a depth unparalleled by other news organizations. To unpack the promise and peril of this formerly isolated country also known as Burma, our correspondents, Patrick Winn and Jonah Kessel, traveled from the restive opium dens of Kachin State to the bustling malls and busy recording studios of Yangon, and to the booming copper mines of remote Kyisintaung Mountain. While Myanmar’s generals have made peace with Aung San Suu Kyi, lifting her from house arrest to parliament, GlobalPost illuminates the complex nature of Myanmar’s reforms through comprehensive written reports, breathtaking photo slideshows and some of the most powerful, character-driven video reporting available anywhere on the web, including a 30-minute documentary film that weaves Myanmar’s uneasy emergence into a coherent and viscerally provocative narrative.
The series examines Myanmar’s rocky journey from oppression through the lens of three key subject areas: “Opium War,” which examines how some believe that the government is committing “genocide by heroin” in the mountainous and remote area of Kachin State; “Oppression Economics,” which reveals how Myanmar’s people—rock stars, former dissidents and child laborers—are struggling to adapt in an economy stymied by decades of political repression; and “The People vs. The Power,” which looks at how a heavy hand is still being used against some dissidents in this nascent democracy and includes gripping video footage of a white phosphorous grenade attack against monks protesting a $1 billion copper mine on Letpadaung Mountain. (To delve further into “Myanmar Emerges,” please visit www.globalpost.com/globalpost-myanmar-emerges.) The series also documents the heartfelt reactions of Burmese villagers who are shocked and disappointed by the actions of their now-tarnished political idol. “Aunty Suu says she is the people’s leader,” U Sanvara, a 54-year-old monk, tells GlobalPost. “My heart says that is no longer true. She belongs to the regime, not the people’s desires.”
Since the launch of the series, “Myanmar Emerges” has delivered thoughtful and provocative reporting that has proven to be highly consequential. In “Breadwinners,” a video report looking at how child labor remains a pillar of Myanmar’s dysfunctional economy, viewers are introduced Mya Myint Zsu, a 12-year-old who lives in a shack above a swamp and collects trash to support her family. In this world, school or starvation is often the only choice for parents who must allow their children to work. “Not being educated is like being blind,” says Mya’s grandmother. “I really want to send her to school, but, I just can’t afford to.” After seeing the segment, two independent viewers were inspired to fund Mya’s and her sister’s education as well as provide much-needed medicine for her grandmother. These offers speak to the power of the reporting and the impact of the visual storytelling that makes “Myanmar Emerges” worthy of recognition.
We submit this coverage of Myanmar in consideration for the Online Journalism Awards because it represents a commitment to excellence in reporting that is increasingly rare in electronic journalism.