“Media Portrayal vs. Reality”

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – April 15 Scenes
MoeMaKa, April 16, 2024

“Media Portrayal vs. Reality”

One of the comments I read on a news report on a social media platform was, “I long for news reports from decades ago, they used to report the news professionally.” This comment made me realize that the policies of news agencies and the positions of individual journalists have changed significantly over the past 40 to 50 years, especially after the transformation of the news media’s income streams.

This comment seems to have been written by someone elderly, reflecting on a time when the press and journalists had substantial influence over the public and the government, firmly adhering to journalistic ethics. This was when their income was derived from the purchase of publications, including media, radio, television, magazines, newspapers, and advertisements.

Myanmar also experienced periods when the press and journalists operated with dignity, notably during the struggle for independence and the parliamentary democracy era known as the FaSaPaLa era. During this time, journalists were not aligned with politicians or motivated by political interests and goals. They maintained the dignity of the press and upheld journalistic standards.

In those days, the press was not entirely devoid of political color, but the honor of the press and the dignity of journalists were paramount. They supported political forces to some extent but avoided exaggeration and refrained from becoming followers of politicians.

Nowadays, press and news agencies often lack such integrity, becoming biased for the sake of income, survival, and the individual positions of journalists. In global affairs, they tend to present events in black and white, portraying heroes and villains. Competing for attention, they follow popular trends rather than focusing on what would be beneficial for the public. The worst aspect is their tendency to chase money, align with popular viewpoints, and withhold information.

Western news media often follow popular public opinions and the views of prominent political leaders and parties. They create stereotypical storylines and images of countries, providing readers only with selected facts and perspectives, thus shaping a desired narrative.

Recent global events illustrate this trend. In the Ukraine-Russia war, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the Iran-Israel tensions, Western news media often portray situations in terms of black and white, heroes and villains, rather than presenting information to prevent conflict. For instance, concerns arose about a potential world war involving multiple countries after Iran’s recent missile and drone attacks on Israel.

Similarly, Myanmar’s news media face various obstacles, often struggling to gather accurate and reliable information about the country’s internal conflicts, battles, and human rights abuses. They frequently present biased reporting, influenced by their allegiance to or fear of powerful political and armed groups, hiding unwanted information or truths.

In the era of social media and digital publishing, audience reactions can be seen through comments. Although not every comment is relevant, missing information, inaccuracies, and omissions in important content are often highlighted.

Like international news media, Myanmar’s news media will likely evolve with the times.

For audiences, relying on trusted news media for important decisions carries a high risk of making mistakes and being misled.

Emphasizing only the information one wants to see, rather than what exists, and presenting only desired outcomes can distance us further from reality. This approach may eventually lead to incorrect decisions and outcomes.

The media should not determine what is right and wrong; that is the role of history. The news media are responsible for verifying and presenting accurate information and should also question and hold organizations accountable.