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 seeks 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 continue to be divided along political lines and show their open support either to the ruling powers or to the opposition.” said MID’s project coordinator Myo Min Zaw. “If voters are to make informed choice on 8 November, the media in general should offer a more balanced and analytical coverage.”
The media monitoring results for the period of 29 September – 24 October 2015 indicate that media continue to be divided in the way they cover candidates, parties and other relevant subjects, with state-funded media providing limited time or space to political parties in their news and covering activities of the authorities. By contrast, a number of private media have provided a platform for the NLD. Both state-funded and some private media continued to provide free time and space to registered contestants to communicate their message to voters – this opportunity however was only available until the second week of October. In a positive development, both state-funded and private media have been allocating time for voter education programs and spots.
State broadcast media continue to allocate 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 which has given them an advantage over their opponents who are not receiving such extensive coverage in the news programs. Only a few broadcast media continue to provide voters with a wide range of information about different contestants and other political subjects. By comparison, print media and internet have so far offered a diverse range of views, some supporting the ruling powers while others showing their preferences toward the NLD.
“I understand that for many journalists, it is the first real election campaign and I do sympathize with their efforts. I am really glad to see that some media have tried hard to provide objective and balanced coverage of the campaign – and this is very important. It is however clear that a number of important reforms and changes will be necessary in order for the media to provide voters with more objective and balanced coverage of the campaign.” said Rasťo Kužel of Democracy Reporting International.
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 assesses the performance of media against ethical and professional standards.
MID will issue four monitoring reports about the media’s behavior during the election campaign and will disseminate them to the public, media, civil society, political parties, and international community. The first monitoring report covering the period 8-28 September can be found at this location.
The third report will be issued on 5 November and it will provide a full assessment of the entire campaign coverage in the media. The final report, which will include concrete recommendations for reforms and changes, will be issued some three weeks after the elections.
Charts: Print and online media
Charts: TV and radio