Karen News: reporting on issues that shape the Karen community

Apr 30, 2019

Karen News_construction workers in Mae Sot 2013_karennews.org website

Construction workers in Mae Sot 2013. [IMAGE: karennews.org]

Karen News is an ethnic Karen news agency, generating written articles, radio and film news reports on social justice issues that shape Karen communities in Myanmar and around the world. Karen News provides an independent window for Myanmar and the international community on what is happening in Myanmar’s ethnic Karen state and Myanmar more broadly.

A voice by the Karen for the Karen emerges on the Thai-Myanmar border

In 2011 a group of Karen journalists organisations including Saw Blacktown from different Karen media organisations, came together out of a desire to tell stories and reports about issues that happen in the Karen community to share them with the outside world and the Karen diaspora.

Against a backdrop of 66 years of conflict and militarisation, these dedicated Karen journalists cover every day stories that include a range of crimes against humanity – extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, forced labour, child soldiers, forced displacement, and human trafficking. Yet amongst the harsh reality of a life affected by conflict, Karen News also find and report on stories of hope, love and dignity.

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA began assisting Karen News through a small grant to set up a web-based news site and in late 2011 www.karennews.org was launched. Over the years, the team at Karen News have built their capacity and are now producing weekly television broadcast segments and radio in both the Karen and Burmese languages. Karen News has also produced a number of powerful documentary videos on union organising, environmental action against dams, refugees and displaced people. In 2018, APHEDA and Karen News collaborated on a documentary on worker’s rights in Myanmar, ‘They Only Listen When We Are United’.

Karen News, quality news for the Karen community and an international audience

During 2017-18, Karen News continued to provide high quality news reporting, amplifying issues affecting the Karen community. Over the period a total of 45 articles and 13 videos were produced on a number of issues critical to the Karen community including repatriation of refugees and displaced people, peace talks, women in conflict, land rights, land confiscation, environmental issues, development and investment, landmines and migrant workers. These articles and videos can be viewed online and in English on the Karen News website. Karen News also covers issues that affect other APHEDA partner organisations on the Thai-Myanmar border including the recent news of the Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO) and their general secretary, Naw K’Nyaw Paw, receiving the 2019 US International Women of Courage Award.

Karen Voice, reporting on local issues in Karen language

Karen News has begun work on an ethnic Karen language website, Karen Voice. This website will give Karen News an avenue through which to communicate news directly to the Karen community in their own language. Until now, written articles were produced online in English with a predominantly international audience in mind.

However, after research with both the international and regional Karen communities, it was identified that there is an interest and need for more news content to be produced in Karen. Karen Voice allows journalists to produce important local stories that do not have an international angle in a timely manner for Karen audiences. These stories would include changes within local politics, legislation, the peace process, refugee repatriation, development and land issues, health, education, environment, displacement and work related issues. Karen Voice will offer a platform to refugees, villagers and workers to have their voices heard as well as political leaders, health professionals and community based groups advocates.

Amplifying current issues into the future

Karen News are currently focused on a number of major social justice issues that they plan to investigate and report on. These include:

  • Ceasefire/Peace talks: Reporting on the state of peace talks will continue with a focus on future plans and how they will unfold. For peace talks between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Myanmar Government to be successful the process needs to be transparent. Key actors need to be identified and held accountable, women need to be included and objective information on the key issues need to be reported accurately and timely so Karen people can make informed decisions. These factors will drive the direction of Karen News’ reporting.
  • Refugee Repatriation: With ongoing talk of repatriation of the 100,000 refugees living in 9 refugee camps in Thailand and the 400,000 displaced people in Eastern Myanmar, Karen News will report on the talks taking place between the Thai and Myanmar governments, international non-government organisations, community-based organisations and the United Nations refugee committee. This is vital information for the refugees concerned and the international community at large. Read ‘Myanmar’s Karen Displaced in a Quagmire
  • Migrant Workers: As many as three million people from Myanmar have crossed into Thailand to find work. Many are undocumented and are vulnerable to exploitation on building sites, as domestic workers and by various officials. Karen News will continue to report on updates to the migrant labour law in Thailand, and any crackdowns on these workers by the Thai authorities. Expanding their reporting further afield, Karen News has also begun documenting the livelihoods and workplace issues confronting workers inside Myanmar. Watch ‘They Only Listen When We Are United’.
  • Land rights: International human rights groups estimate that the majority of people living in refugee and displaced peoples’ camps were landowners before becoming refugees. Many camp residents have told Karen News that they are worried what their current legal status is in relationship to the ownership of their land. Karen News will continue to explore these issues.

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