Five Burmese journalists carrying out advocacy work in Brussels
Launched in March 2022 by CFI and France Médias Monde (FMM) with support from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Kwanraat ("network" in Burmese) project aims to support Burmese journalists in exile in their efforts to fight for freedom of expression and promote their country's return to democracy, via programmes to strengthen their skills and a joint information production project.
The objectives of this project included the organisation of an advocacy campaign targeting European Union institutions in Brussels with a view to raising awareness among their representatives of the current situation in Myanmar, which has been deep in civil war since the military coup on 1 February 2021.
In this regard, seven journalists received support from CFI, France 24 and the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) between July and November with the aim of producing and editing a documentary to inform the international community of the realities of the coup, the resulting repression and the situation in the country through the eyewitness accounts and testimonies of those who have had to live through the events. This documentary was created in parallel with efforts to set up meetings with representatives of the European Parliament and the European Commission, led by the European Partnership for Democracy.
Ensuring that the situation in Myanmar is discussed at the highest level of the institutions
These meetings took place on 5 and 6 December 2022 in Brussels, a few days before the EU-ASEAN summit on 14 December and just two days after seven Burmese students were sentenced to death. Each of the journalists who agreed to participate in these meetings and to testify openly worked on a specific message that they wanted the European institutions to hear.
These messages, consolidated with an advocacy expert, broached the topics of the detention of political prisoners, including children; the limits of the current embargoes; the extension of the conflict to new areas of Myanmar and the risk to the education of some children; and even the legitimacy that could emerge as a result of the international recognition of the next elections arranged for 2023 by the ruling junta.
The meetings with the various representatives took place with an atmosphere of mutual openness and allowed the journalists to have their messages heard while also gaining clarification with regard to the latest actions taken by the European Union in relation to Myanmar. A joint letter, signed by four of the journalists and containing all of these messages, was also sent to Heidi Hautala, one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, to ensure that the Myanmar issue will be raised at the highest level within the European institutions.
This advocacy campaign brought the Kwanraat project to a close. It has successfully established a network of Burmese journalists committed to a return to democracy in their country, which will now be able to continue performing the dual task of disseminating information and raising awareness among the general public and European institutions.