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#ONLYMYVOICELEFT

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Fondo negro

Only My Voice Left

Would you lend an ear to someone that has nothing else left but their voice?

World Press Freedom Day 2024

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EVERYTHING WAS TAKEN FROM ME
I was woken up by a sudden call of a friend in the early morning of February 1st, 2021, that's when I learnt the military had taken over control of my country, Myanmar. I soon realised my life was going to change forever. In a matter of months, everything I ever loved, cared and worked for would be taken away:
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My financial stability

Without an income and legalization of my work situation in exile, my life is extremely challenging. I try to make the most of my savings, but I know they will eventually run out.

My home

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I had to leave the home I grew up in, with just a few belongings and I am now alone in exile in another country. I am struggling to start a new life in a new place, with a different culture and language.

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My mental health

After losing the things that I cared the most about, I has been struggling with my mental health. I feel isolated, and I suffer from trauma and stress, with constant fear and uncertainty if I will ever be able to return to my home country. 

My job

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I am a journalist and the newspaper I was working in closed down as the military revoked their operating license. I am currently looking for a low-paid job in exile, although without a work permit my situation is extremely challenging.

My friends and family

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Some people of my closest circle have gone into hiding, others were forced to choose a life elsewhere. And these are the lucky ones, others that I know have paid the ultimate price... Their lives.

My hopes

and dreams

I was having a promising career in the newspaper, I was on the right track to become a head editor and with stable income, I wanted to form a family with my partner someday.

PROYECTOS
Fondo negro
BUT THERE'S SOMETHING THAT THEY COULDN'T TAKE AWAY: MY VOICE

This is my voice,
and here's what I have to say

"Before the coup, I had my own life, self-employed, stable salary, family and friends. Also as a journalist, I was able to go and work anywhere in the country, Myanmar and I was able to do my job with pride. After the coup, all of these situations were totally destroyed, and my dear friends, colleagues, and relatives are also facing various situations and struggling under the oppression of the military council. As for me, I had to leave my beloved family behind, and I was always worried about my family in Myanmar who faced daily struggles under the military council."

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"Mingalapar, I'm Thadoe Aung, and I live in Bagan, Myanmar. I'm working as a tourist guide in Bagan region. I'm 21 years years old, born and grew up in Yangon. and it has been 2 years since I moved to Bagan. It's mainly due to my career decision but also due to my parents, U Lay Naing and Daw Myint Myint Yi, whom also decided to settle here in Bagan Thus I moved here with my family to properly focus on my career and also to fulfill my parent's wish."

Fondo abstracto

Like Htet*, countless other journalists and human rights defenders from Myanmar are fearlessly using their voices, whether within the borders of their homeland or in the refuge of exile, with very little else left.

 

In the wake of unimaginable loss and hardship, these courageous individuals use their voices as a source of power: they stand resolute in their commitment to justice and democracy, boldly sharing with the world the complex reality of Myanmar, speaking their truth and refusing to be silenced. 

 

Would you lend your ear to those that have

nothing else left but their voice?

These are their stories.

*Alias

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Fondo negro

"If freedom of expression is hindered, there will be more oppression on the people and more injustice. And the situation will become that people have to be afraid of armed people".

"I think the media professionals have the right to raise their voice and at the same time, people have the right to access information. So if media professional voices are stopped, it can affect the right to information and affect people's daily lives. Because we need to know what’s happening where we live, where our family lives, where our friends live".

"When the whole country fell into darkness, we, all the media professionals, felt the difficulties together"

"There is a big danger if media professionals are not allowed to make their voices heard on important issues"

"In such a situation, the media workers in Myanmar, who provide knowledge and information to the public, are living in hiding and secret. It became as if we had to hide  because we had committed a crime. That situation is a big change. We couldn’t see that no one was collecting and gathering the news, obviously. All of us had to work in difficulties and secretly".

"My biggest concern is my family. I'm not sure if I will be able to see my family again with the current political situation. Only my parents are left at home in Yangon because me and my little brother, we both are working as journalists. So we can't stay in country and we can't  go back home. So my parents didn't have a passport and they do not want to go abroad and they haven't experienced to travel as well. I think many other people who fled are face a similar situation."

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"After the coup, our life paths became blurred, and I felt like there was no hope at all"

"Freedom of expression is very important to the public. It can also be said that it is the life of democracy. Therefore, I hope that leaders from all aspects can understand and accept the media workers and human rights defenders."

"The biggest loss is that I will not be able to regain my freedom and the lifestyle I lived in Myanmar before the coup. Our media colleagues, relatives, and friends who worked together are at each other's place and are facing various difficulties. In the past, we used to be happy in our work, and we always miss the times when we tried together.".

Rocas oscuras

"After the military coup in Burma, we have experienced many changes. In the period before the coup, we could take, collect, and gather news and then present freely. We were in a happy and normal situation. Within a month of the coup, journalists were arrested and imprisoned by the military council. As it happened, I had to stop from my current job. I also had to work freelance jobs secretly and had to move to other places because we couldn’t live in our own quarter anymore."

"The life of the media professionals in Myanmar has been broken in pieces."

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Fondo negro

"If there is media, we will be able to report the injustice, killings and human rights violations that are happening in our country"

"We faced threats and violations by the military such as arrest, imprisonment, and torture"

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"My current job is part time with a short contract making the situation unstable.

The biggest worry is that most people like me, who are across the border are now stateless."

"Media workers and human rights defenders need a lot of support to be valued and to do their jobs effectively. More international support is also needed"

Rocas oscuras

"The biggest loss for me after the coup was that my entire career changed. Before, I could freely get the news. The situation changed from being able to go and freely to hiding and secretly working. Training had to be done online. Before, we were able to freely go around the country and collect news and information, but now we have to hide and work secretly. Some people moved to the area and some moved to a foreign country or Thailand. As for my career, I stayed at my last place for 3 years, but I was in a situation where I couldn't open up about what I was doing."

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Fondo abstracto

"As a media person, my hope for the future is that  whether it is a country that is still fighting or that has reached a state of recovery, the media is necessary. If there is a media, we will be able to report the injustice, killings and human rights violations that are happening in our country. In addition, the media is necessary during the country's reconstruction period."

"Of course my life definitely changed after the coup, because I joined the civil disobedience movement (CDM), and I lost my job. I was targeted by the military government. I became a radio journalist after the coup, and it was more dangerous for me."

"At this time, I think it is necessary to support money or supporting equipment to media people who are working in secret, in order to be able to present important topics. If they get that kind of support, the media industry can operate to a certain extent safely and present news and information about the area where they are currently at."

"As long as there are human rights' violations, we, the journalist need to push ourselves to raise our voices"

"Now, I cannot go back to Myanmar, and it is unimaginable when I will be able to be the person I have been clinging to"

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"Freedom of action is very important for media workers. Because media workers are called the ears and eyes of the country. Human rights violations, burning and killing etc. can happen not only in the government but also in other armed organizations. These things are exposed by the media workers. If the media workers have restrictions, for example; “the media workers are not allowed to enter their restricted area, restrictions on writing news to protect the reputation of the organization and asking for permission”, the right to freedom of expression will no longer exist. That’s why freedom of actions is very important for media workers."

Fondo abstracto

From the moment the military seized power in Myanmar, both as a media person and as a citizen, neither side is good anymore. Both the lives of individual people and the fate of the entire country are turned upside down. I think that both the country and the people's lives have been destroyed from both sides.

If I have to say what I lost when things happen like this, before the coup, I could go back to my home. When things happened like now, I couldn’t go back home even one time after 5 or 6 months. Wherever I go, I have many concerns. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. Things happened like that because of security reasons.

Like I said, Media Professionals and Human Rights defenders are the ones who speak out through our voices. Because our voices are the one which speak out for the ground situation such as killing cases, tortured cases and now the military bring the people into interrogation and violate sexual abuse and tortured, arrested for no reasons and killing and arresting unjustly. And then in the current there are many situations because of the conscription law, many young people are on the run and hiding. So, if international or international organizations or local organizations or media can’t speak out our voices, the people who are at risk will be in more danger.

"If  media professionals and human rights defenders do not have the right to speak, Myanmar will never be free from the darkness."

"If the media professionals and human rights defenders remain silent, the cycle of injustice and inequalities will continue. Their voices play a big role in transparency, accountability and rules of law in a country."

Why is it important for journalists and human rights defenders to be able to do their work freely, it is because when journalists have to present diverse and balanced voices, there is a lot of need to be able to present freely when presenting the stories of those who have an impact on the ground. If we use words such as Injustice, Lawlessness and the difficulty of enforcing the law, journalists need to be able to gather information freely. We need to be free to inquire, we need to be free to present. If there is no more freedom to get news and freedom of information and freedom of speech will be lost.

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"The biggest thing I lost during this time was my cluster of dreams. It was like closing the concert stage with the curtains since I had to lose everything I had ever expected."

Rocas oscuras

As the media professional and HRDs freedom is the most important thing in the working process. If we can't perform these duties because of lacking press freedom and freedom of speech, the issues from Myanmar would disappear from the world's pages. As the armed military continues to violate human rights, we, the journalists, need to push ourselves to raise our voices.

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Fondo negro

The lives of journalists, media experts, and human rights defenders have not been allowed to work freely in the years since the coup. In the case of news, there is no right to take it freely. We went into exile soon after we were sought by the military council. As for human rights activists, when they can no longer move freely inside the country, they have to manage to exile to be able to continue their activities outside of the country.

In order to protect media experts and human rights defenders, either a country or a country. According to the existing law of a country, and We need to be supported either according to international treaties, need to acknowledge. We need to listen to the voices of media professionals and human rights defenders. Legal protection, provision of a place to escape in case of emergency, and psychological and physical support are also needed for human rights defenders to carry out their duties properly. Technical support is also needed to keep data based safe.

"I will continue to use my voice no matter what the odds are. Someone has to speak up, the world needs us to be heard."

If only we can talk freely, and if there are no risky challenges, the locals themselves will dare to talk about the life-threatening harassment they are facing. We will also be able to work freely in information acquisition, reporting and writing news.”

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Fondo abstracto

"The life of media professionals and journalists has turned upside down after the coup. Media lost freedom of speech and press freedom as media professionals, because armed military targets them, together with human right defenders, to be arrested, tortured and killed. Some of them lost some of their body parts during interrogations while others managed to flee to the border or other countries to save their lives."

"Media professionals can no longer protect their own life and livelihood, nor their families'"

"When the military took over the base in our town, we lose all our  equipment: cameras, hard disks, hardware and data"

"My colleagues hand I have been investigating news and updates about the coup and the different revolutions. For these, the military raided our houses and offices where we worked. We managed to relocate from one safe house to another to avoid their inspection. We made documentaries about youth participation and incidents during the earliest revolutions. "

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Revolutionary news is being presented more and more every day. Human rights defenders in various regions have access to information, Among the thirty points included in the thirty points of human rights…….

When it comes to checking who is violating human rights, there are more and more issues with the military. There are also encounters with other armed groups. At present, the issues that are happening all over the country are facing the military dictator the most.

Rocas oscuras

I think the expectations of media workers and media houses in Myanmar are the same. It is to get the ability to freely express the precise and timely news of the revolution to the world. And I hope that the world shall also continue to provide assistance too. This expectation will be the same among us. 

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Fondo negro

“In my career life, I lost my job where I got a worthy salary and became jobless for one year. I even worked at a safe place in the Karen ERO region to extend the stance of our media house. I had to depart from my family and human dignity became dim because of unexpected survivals of being an illegal migrant for one year in Thailand”

Rocas oscuras

“We, media professionals have the responsibility to collect and report news about daily incidents to the public. And this work should reach the international community too. If we cannot do so, the international community will not know what is happening in Myanmar. And, the successive military regimes made people blind and deaf and suffer from human rights violations and so do the current military junta. So, we should continue our work to prevent this from happening”

CONTACTO

All photos provided by Exile Hub fellows 

ABOUT THIS CAMPAIGN

#OnlyMyVoiceLeft is a campaign initiated by Exile Hub on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day 2024 to raise awareness of the voices of human rights defenders and media makers from Myanmar, who have been silenced, persecuted, or forced into exile due to the oppressive regime in their country. Through this campaign, we aim to amplify their stories, shed light on their struggles, and advocate for their rights to freedom of expression and safety.

 

Exile Hub is a non-profit organization providing resources and support to human rights defenders and media makers who had to flee their homes due to political persecution or conflict, particularly in the context of the recent coup and the military's human rights violations. Visit our homepage.

HOW CAN YOU SUPPORT?

Join us in standing in solidarity with the courageous individuals who continue to fight for democracy and justice in Myanmar. 

Share this website in your social media channels with the hashtags #OnlyMyVoiceLeft #WorldPressFreedomDay and help us raise awareness:

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