Myanmar Institute for Democracy (MID), an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the media, in cooperation with MEMO 98, has been monitoring the media coverage of the November elections. MID and MEMO 98 seek to evaluate the monitored media’s performance in providing objective and balanced coverage of the contestants and their platforms so the citizens of Myanmar can make well-informed choices at the ballot box. The main objective of the project is to inform the public about the conduct of media during election campaign and beyond and to initiate a discussion about the objectivity and quality of media reporting. The project is supported by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) in the framework of the EU-funded project STEP Democracy as well as by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
“Media are divided in the way they cover the ongoing election campaign,” said MID’s project coordinator Myo Min Zaw. “State-funded media have so far given very little time to activities of political parties in their news programs. Instead, they have extensively covered activities of the authorities, highlighting their achievements and successes. By contrast, private press has supported the NLD.”
The preliminary media monitoring results for the period of 8 – 28 September 2015 indicate that there have been discernable differences in how the media have so far portrayed candidates, parties and other relevant subjects. Most of broadcast media have so far allocated very little time to activities of political parties but instead devoted the bulk of their coverage to the activities of the state authorities, outside the campaign context. Many of them are also candidates in the elections. Contestants have been able to utilize free airtime on both state-funded and some private broadcasters as well as free space in state-funded and some private newspapers. Their ability to freely express their views, including criticism of the incumbents, has been restricted due to strict regulations on the free airtime and space allocation.
Of the monitored broadcast media, only DVB and BBC have so far provided voters with a diverse range of information about different contestants and other political subjects. Moreover, DVB has organized debates between contestants, providing them a good opportunity to convey their messages directly to voters. The print and online media have so far offered a diverse range of views, some supporting the ruling powers while others showing their clear preferences toward the NLD.
“While some private media are making an effort to provide a diverse range of views about candidates and political parties, this is not enough. As recipients of public resources, state-funded media have an enhanced duty to ensure ample coverage of the campaign and balanced and fair treatment of politicians. Voters would also benefit from a more analytical and in-depth coverage that could help them to better analyse and assess the qualities and programs of electoral contestants.” said Maw Zin, of MID.
Media monitoring has been carried out since 8 September using qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis. Quantitative analysis identifies numeric measures or indicators that can be counted and analysed, such as the total amount of time devoted to monitored subjects and also the tone of their coverage (positive, negative, or neutral). Qualitative analysis will assess the performance of media against ethical and professional standards.
The methodology was developed by a Slovak media-monitoring organization MEMO 98 which has carried out similar projects in 50 countries in the last 17 years. Given its comprehensive content-oriented approach, the methodology is specially designed to provide in-depth feedback on pluralism and diversity in media reporting, including coverage of chosen subjects and themes. The outcome of the monitoring is not just a set of data, but a detailed analysis and evaluation of the current level of political diversity in media reporting, examined in the proper context, and incorporating concrete comparisons and analysis.
The findings will be compiled in three monitoring reports about the media’s behavior during the election campaign and are to be disseminated to the public, media, civil society, political parties, and international community. The first report focuses on the three weeks of the official campaign period (8 – 28 September 2015). The next report will be published on 26 October.
Charts: Print and online media
Charts: TV and radio