The co-founder and executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) arrived in Rangoon on Monday for a five-day visit, the first time he has set foot on Burmese soil in more than two decades.
Aye Chan Naing is due to meet with the government’s information minister, Kyaw Hsan, on 29 February in the capital, Naypyidaw. The deputy director of DVB, Khin Maung Win, said the trip was aimed at “exploring possibilities of establishing DVB operations inside the country”.
Like other exiled media groups, including the Thailand-based Irrawaddy and India-based Mizzima, DVB’s management is keen to establish a legal presence in the country after years spent operating underground, and at great risk.
“Obviously there are changes taking place in Burma on several fronts which would not be even dreamed over the past 50 years,” Khin Maung Win said. “But there are still come concerns about how these changes can actually transform the country into a genuine and sustainable democratic system.”
DVB began in 1992 as a radio station operating out of Oslo, Norway, with a rudimentary bureau in the Manerplaw region of Karen state. Since then it has gradually expanded, and in 2005 became the first non-state media group to broadcast television inside Burma.
Its work during the September 2007 monk-led uprising formed the focus of the Oscar-nominated Burma VJ documentary. The film depicted the risks involved in filming undercover in Burma at a time when the junta held a zero-tolerance policy towards independent media.
At one point, 17 video journalists working for DVB were in prison in Burma, some serving sentences of more than 60 years, but all were freed ni an amnesty of political prisoners in January this year.
Despite it being too early to predict what will be the outcome of the meeting [with Kyaw Hsan], it is a clear indicator that the government is also willing to give the media its rightful place in line with the changes happening right now,” said Khin Maung Win.
“DVB would like to grab and utilise any possible opportunity in the country for positive change.”
The heads of both the Irrawaddy and Mizzima have already travelled to Burma in the past month, also with the aim of exploring the possibility of relocating operations to the country.
The government has enacted a series of reforms to the media since late last year that have included dropping a ban on access websites such as DVB and BBC, but Kyaw Hsan is believed to be wary about legalising the work of exiled media groups who have dedicated themselves to exposing crimes committed by the regime.