Burma's Democracy: How Real?

Thursday, March 6, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Bechtel Conference Center

The opening up of Myanmar (Burma) and the steps undertaken taken toward political reform in that formerly isolated dictatorship have been among Asia's most dramatic and least expected events.  But the establishment of full democracy is still on the agenda and faces many challenges.  How willing is the current government in Burma to allow a full and free exercise of political rights, including media freedom?  A panel of experts, including Aung Zaw, the editor and founder of The Irrawaddy and this year's recipient of the Shorenstein Award for Journalism in Asia, will address that question in discussing "Burma's Democracy:  How Real?"

Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (Shorenstein APARC) is pleased to announce Aung Zaw as the 2013 recipient of the Shorenstein Journalism Award. Zaw has been selected for his leadership in establishing independent media in Myanmar (Burma) and his dedication to integrity in reporting on Southeast Asia.

 Aung Zaw

Aung Zaw is the founding editor-in-chief and executive director of The Irrawaddy, an independent Burmese media organization operating in Myanmar and northern Thailand. Zaw has been an active campaigner for democratic reform in Burma/Myanmar over the last two decades. He was awarded the 2010 Prince Claus Fund Award for journalism along with two journalists from Iran and Cuba – and is recognized for his active dedication to achieving democratic governance in Burma and his work to uphold press freedom.

Zaw studied Botany at Rangoon University. As a student activist in Burma, he was part of the 1988 protests in Rangoon against the Burmese military regime of General Ne Win. He was arrested and detained for a week in Rangoon’s notorious Insein prison where he was severely tortured during interrogation about his pro-democracy activities. Upon release Aung Zaw continued to work with the resistance movement until the military staged a coup in September that year and he was forced to leave the country for neighboring Thailand.

Two years later, Aung Zaw founded the Burma Information Group (BIG) in Bangkok, to document human rights violations in Burma. He began to write political commentaries for national newspapers in Thailand and internationally, and in late 1993 launched The Irrawaddy News Magazine in Bangkok, covering Burma affairs. He worked in Bangkok for two years producing The Irrawaddy Magazine until relocating to the more secure position in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.

In February 2012, Aung Zaw was able to return to his homeland for the first time in more than 20 years for a temporary visit as an independent journalist. By the end of 2012, The Irrawaddy was able to establish a media and news office in central Yangon, returning to Burma/Myanmar to practice independent journalism, whilst retaining a regional office in Thailand.

In 2013, the government lifted ban on The Irrawaddy and other exiled websites, the Irrawaddy English magazine and the Irrawaddy Dateline Current Affairs TV program is available for audiences in Myanmar. Aung Zaw writes for New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Time, The Guardian, Bangkok Post, The Nation and several publications in the Europe. His interviews have also appeared on CN, BBC and Al Jazeera. He is the author of the Face of Resistance and is a recent Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley, School of Journalism.