Fellowship programme rolled out for former political prisoners
FHI360 and USAID have started a joint programme to provide fellowship opportunities in news media organizations and civil society organizations in Myanmar for former political prisoners for six months.
The event to launch the programme was held at Sedona Hotel in Yangon on July 9.
“By working in the civil society organizations and news media, they will get a great deal of experience. They have a lot of political experience. So they will be able to share their experiences to the relevant organizations. After the six-month fellowship, they will get a lot of experience by mutually sharing experiences. Then they will feel that they are not sidelined anymore and they will be able to participate in politics again. I think the programme will be able to assist the democratic transition,” said Aung Din, a director at FHI 360.
Mizzima is one of the media organizations helping in this programme.
Suggestions were given in December 2016 to carry out the programme, and it was announced that former political prisoners can apply for the fellowship between March and April 12, 2017. The selection committee selected 50 out of 162 former political prisoners who applied for the fellowship. Nine out of the selected 50 former political prisoners are women.
Mawkun Magazine’s chief editor Zayar Hlaing said that his organization is a news organization, so the former political prisoners will have to be assigned to produce, hunt and write news.
“I tell them in advance that our organization is a news media organization. It is a professional organization. Every professional must follow rules and ethics. If someone does not follow the ethics and rule, it is difficult to call the person a journalist. If so, the person cannot work as a journalist. So they need to follow the ethics and rules,” he said.
After the six months, whether the news media will continue appointing the former political prisoners as journalists in the organization will depend on the quality of their work and the budget of the organization.
The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society official Jimmy said: “They will get three benefits. They will be able to take part in the society again. This is the first benefit. The second benefit is that they will have to work as interns. If they are selected to a fellowship at a media organization, they will have to work in media jobs. If they are selected to civil society organizations, they will have experiences. The third benefit is that they will receive Kyat 300,000 per month as an honorarium. So, the programme will assist their livelihood.”
Ten media organizations that have been supported by FHI 360 and 17 civil society organizations will jointly undertake the fellowship programme.
Some of the 10 media organizations are DVB, Mizzima, Myitmakha, Mawkun Magazine, Mawlamyine-based Thanlwin Time, and Kayah State based Gandayawaddy Time.
Triangle Women Support (Yangon), Myanmar Peasants Union, Thanlwin Citizen Empowerment, the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners are included in the 17 civil society organizations.
Mizzima Media accepted five former political prisoners as fellows. One of them is Than Zaw who was given a total of 23 years in prison for his political beliefs.
US Ambassador Scot Marciel, right, with a former political prisoner. Photo: Mizzima