SINGAPORE: The CNA Myanmar bureau has won the inaugural Hinzpeter Awards for News for their coverage of police violence during a large-scale demonstration against a military coup in the country.

In announcing the award on Wednesday (Sep 1), the selection committee’s chair said the two CNA video journalists “covered the violence of the police indiscriminately firing tear gas and beating and detaining citizens in a video … which was aired around the world” on Feb 27.

“The video exposes the Myanmar military’s brutal oppression and violence against the citizens to the international community,” added Mr Ian Phillips, who is also vice-president of the international division at AP News.

“It vividly shows the brave spirit and dedication of the journalists who are willing to film the truth of history and the resistance of the people of Myanmar, who aspire to democracy and the recovery of constitutional order, while not surrendering to threats against their lives.”

The identities of the CNA video journalists have been withheld to protect them and their families.

Responding to the award, CNA’s Myanmar correspondent Leong Wai Kit said: “I’m very thankful that the efforts by CNA’s team in Myanmar to deliver news stories despite the difficult and dangerous conditions on the ground have been recognised on the international stage. This award is testament to the team’s commitment to covering the unfolding story in Myanmar.” 

The Hinzpeter Awards were named after journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter who infiltrated Gwangju on May 18, 1980, and recorded scenes of a massacre amid the military’s suppression of the Gwangju Democratization Movement.

Jointly organised by the May 18 Memorial Foundation and the Korea Video Journalist Association, the awards have been established “to discover, and bring attention to, video journalists like Hinzpeter who demonstrate extraordinary journalistic spirit in their coverage of democratic movements around the world”, said its website.

CHAOTIC SCENES AS CNA CAMERAMAN FLEES POLICE

The winning video taken at Hledan in Yangon shows chaotic scenes as the CNA video journalist flees from police officers who are charging towards a crowd, with shots and smoke in the background.

This came as Myanmar police escalated their crackdown on protesters against the military takeover on Feb 1.

Protesters are seen at Hledan, Yangon in Myanmar on Feb 17, 2021.
Protesters are seen at Hledan, Yangon in Myanmar on Feb 17, 2021.
Protesters are seen at Hledan, Yangon in Myanmar on Feb 17, 2021.
A protester is seen holding up the three-fingered salute at Hledan, Yangon in Myanmar on Feb 17, 2021.
Police personnel are seen in Hledan, Yangon amid protests in Myanmar on Feb 17, 2021.

Myanmar remains fraught with instability and opposition to army rule, under which more than 1,000 people have been killed, according to activist group Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

The military, which has revoked the licences of many news outlets, says it respects the role of media but will not tolerate the reporting of news it believes to be false or will likely create public unrest.

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists in July said Myanmar’s rulers had effectively criminalised independent journalism.

Human Rights Watch said the army government has arrested 98 journalists since the coup, 46 of whom remained in custody as of the end of July.

On Aug 15, two local journalists were arrested, according to a report by the junta’s Myawaddy TV on Aug 21.

One of them is Sithu Aung Myint, a columnist for news site Frontier Myanmar and a commentator with Voice of America radio. The other journalist is Htet Htet Khine, a freelancer who has worked for BBC Media Action.

The family of another arrested journalist, Danny Fenster from the US, appealed on Aug 31 for his release as they marked his 100th day of imprisonment.

Fenster is believed to have contracted COVID-19 during his detention, family members said during a conference call with American journalists.

OTHER AWARDEES

Belarusian video journalist Mikahil Arshynski of Belsat won the World at a Crossroads Award for his documentary Don’t Be Afraid, which aired in May. It is about the fight for fair elections in 2020 under the Alexander Lukashenko regime.

Bruno Federico from Italy, who is a freelance videographer for PBS and ABC, won the Award for Features for capturing the “arduous and dangerous” journey of migrants to reach the United States through Darien Gap, a rugged canyon that connects Colombia and Panama.

For the May Gwangju Award, the late CBS Seoul bureau video journalist Yu Young-gil was selected for his reporting on the 1980 Gwangju Uprising in South Korea.

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