Swe Win, editor-in-chief of Myanmar Now, to Receive 2021 Shorenstein Journalism Award

The Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center (APARC) has awarded Burmese journalist Swe Win the 2021 Shorenstein Journalism Award.

An 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.

Swe Win (Courtesy Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center)

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 coverage of Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration and the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw.

Since the Feb. 1, 2021, military coup, the Myanmar Now team has continued its 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.”

Read the full article on the Freeman Spogli Institute website.