STANFORD, CA, April 27, 2021 — Stanford University’s Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) announced today that Burmese journalist Swe Win is the recipient of the 2021 Shorenstein Journalism Award. An acclaimed investigative journalist and human rights defender, Swe Win is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Myanmar Now, an independent news agency that produces features, analysis, and investigative reports on life in the country in both Burmese and English. Presented annually by APARC, the Shorenstein award is conferred upon a journalist who has contributed significantly to a greater understanding of Asia through outstanding reporting on critical issues affecting the region. Swe Win will receive the award in fall quarter 2021.
Throughout his journalistic career, Swe Win has focused on underreported cases involving physical injury, wrongdoing, and miscarriage of justice in Myanmar. Under his leadership, Myanmar Now has gained recognition for its in-depth, unflinching reports of crimes against the Rohingya and spotlights on the lives of Myanmar’s impoverished communities, for criticizing ultranationalist Buddhist monks, and for its bold coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration and the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw. Since the February 1, 2021 military coup, the Myanmar Now team has continued its brave coverage amid physical threats, violence, police raids, and arrests. Swe Win currently leads the Yangon-based Myanmar Now 40-member editorial team from exile and his newsroom is in hiding.
Swe Win has faced multiple encounters with the military due to his investigative journalism work. In August 2019, soon after Myanmar Now published exposés of the vast business interests of top generals including Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the country’s armed forces, he sustained a gunshot wound while traveling in Rakhine State, a targeted shooting attack in which both civilian and military officials seem to have been involved. Two years earlier, he was arrested and had to defend himself against defamation charges for a Facebook post critical of U Wirathu, a fundamentalist Buddhist monk known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric. In 1998, as a college student during the time of Myanmar’s military regime, he was apprehended for joining the democracy movement and held for seven years as a political prisoner on national security-related charges.
Following his release from prison, Swe Win earned a Master’s degree in journalism from the University of Hong Kong, then worked for the Irrawaddy Magazine and freelanced for international publications including The New York Times and Al Jazeera. When the junta-era media censorship was lifted in 2012, he set up an independent newspaper, The Yangon Globe, and in 2015 cofounded Myanmar Now.
“Swe Win has set a shining example to others with his undaunted commitment to advancing human rights and freedom of expression in Myanmar,” said Gi-Wook Shin, Shorenstein APARC director. “His work demonstrates the moral force of independent, investigative journalism to speak truth to power, and he now leads a courageous, resilient fight for press freedom in the face of brutal attacks on democracy and liberty. It is our honor to recognize him with the Shorenstein Journalism Award.”
Swe Win is the recipient of the 2019 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership, which is regarded as Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize, the 2017 European Union’s Schuman Award for Human Rights, and the 2016 Presidential Certificate of Honor for Social Service through Journalism from the Myanmar Ministry of Information for his groundbreaking investigation into years-long abuse of domestic workers at a Yangon tailor shop.
The Shorenstein Journalism Award, which carries a $10,000 cash prize, honors the legacy of APARC’s benefactor, Mr. Walter H. Shorenstein, and his twin passions for promoting excellence in journalism and understanding of Asia. “This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Shorenstein Award,” noted Shin. “At a time when the Asia-Pacific region has the biggest number of ‘Predators of Press Freedom,’ to quote Reporters Without Borders, we are grateful more than ever to the Shorenstein family for its support of our Center’s mission and the journalism award program, and to the members of the award selection committee for their expertise and service.”
The selection committee for the Shorenstein Journalism Award includes Wendy Cutler, Vice President and Managing Director, Washington, D.C. Office, Asia Society Policy Institute; James Hamilton, Hearst Professor of Communication, Chair of the Department of Communication, and Director of the Stanford Journalism Program, Stanford University; Raju Narisetti, Publisher, McKinsey Global Publishing, McKinsey and Company; Philip Pan, Weekend Editor and former Asia Editor, The New York Times; and Prashanth Parameswaran, Senior Columnist, The Diplomat.
Nineteen journalists have previously won the Shorenstein award, including most recently Tom Wright, the co-author of the bestseller Billion Dollar Whale and a long-time Asia reporter; the internationally-esteemed journalist and press freedom champion Maria Ressa, CEO and executive editor of the Philippine news platform Rappler; Anna Fifield, formerly the Washington Post’s Beijing Bureau Chief and a veteran North Korea watcher; and Siddharth Varadarajan, the founding editor of the Wire and former editor of The Hindu.
APARC will share information about the 2021 Shorenstein Journalism Award program featuring Swe Win in the fall quarter.