For decades, there was no established free press in Burma, and all forms of mass communication were strictly controlled by the military government. Today, as a result of reforms introduced in recent years, the news can go wherever wireless signals can, and aspiring journalists, especially women, are increasingly interested in embracing the latest forms of communication.
Yangon Press International (YPI) is an independent Rangoon-based media outlet established in mid-2011 by five Internews-trained journalists, with support from USAID. Using Facebook as their mode of disseminating news, the journalists have begun to garner regular audiences.
When YPI was first created, pre-publication censorship was very much alive for print publications, but the Internet fell outside the reach of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Department. Facebook, which is popular with the “wired” elements of Burmese society—including activists, entrepreneurs, educators and journalists—was a logical choice as a vehicle to disseminate the news.
USAID support enabled Internews to use a holistic approach to help YPI offer the Burmese public under-reported news from ethnic states and divisions. The support included Internews seed funding, intensive newsroom management training for the chief editor, training equipment, and funding for administrative staff as well as communications and travel for reporters and stringers.
In the first two months of operation, YPI saw its Facebook followers double, and then increase exponentially with the number of “Likes” reaching 10,000 within six months. By April 2012, YPI was officially recognized by the Burmese Government as an online news agency and its reporters were allowed to carry official press cards to cover by-elections in April 2012.
YPI has proven to be a credible player in Burma’s media landscape—growing rapidly and providing for the country's information needs. Now that the mainstream media outlets have also established their Facebook presence, YPI’s future challenge is to maintain its market share in social media.
Last updated: October 31, 2013