Mr. Thiha Saw sits at a table in the Washington Post boardroom, listening attentively about the role of the newspaper as part of the free and independent press in the United States. As Editor in Chief of Burmese news outlet, Open News, this is another sign of Burma's rapid transformation. Mr. Saw is one of four Burmese journalists and government officials on a Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) sponsored program designed to provide U.S. support towards fostering a vibrant media culture in Burma.
I met Mr. Saw and his colleagues last Monday, and he highlighted his longstanding connections with U.S. public diplomacy initiatives and people-to-people exchanges. As a journalist he had frequent contacts with our embassy in Rangoon, traveled to the United States on an International Visitor Leadership Program in the early 1990s, and now was here as part of an effort to open up the press environment in Burma.
While in the United States, the Burmese delegation learned from the U.S. Department of Justice about best practices for creating a new media law and participated in a dialogue with their U.S. counterparts at Hearst News Bureau, the Washington Post, NPR, CBS, the New York Times, and Columbia University School of Journalism. By hearing about U.S. journalistic practices, and creating new professional networks with fellow media professionals, they gained deeper understanding of journalism in the United States and the role of a free and independent media in a democracy.
I am thrilled to support these trailblazing media professionals who are promoting democratization in Burma. By contributing to the formation of a new media law, these Burmese journalists are strengthening the backbone of a democracy: a free and independent media.