Below is a snippet of the interview – to read the full interview, click here
In this interview with Mumbrella Asia editor Robin Hicks, Melbourne-born journalist Jessica Mudditt talks about the challenges of reporting on a country that is – in fits and starts – loosening its grip on press freedom after decades of oppression.
What’s the hardest thing about reporting on Myanmar?
For me, it’s the lack of data available. Previous military regimes appear to have had zero interest in obtaining information about the people of Myanmar (other than for intelligence purposes!). A census hasn’t been conducted in more than 30 years, so even something as straightforward as the total population of Myanmar is merely an estimate, and the estimates vary quite a lot from organisation to organisation. And because Myanmar was a closed country for so long, the research that would normally have been amassed by civil society groups such as INGOs simply didn’t exist until recently. This makes it difficult to identify trends and changes in society, which is what makes an article or an angle robust. For example, when I wrote about women working in the “grey area” of the commercial sex industry, such as at massage parlours and karaoke lounges, there simply wasn’t any data available about the number of women engaged in such work.
So it’s often quite time consuming just to gather enough anecdotal material to find an angle worth pitching to an editor. Another problem is that although government ministries are now actively collecting data and are usually very glad to share it with journalists, very little of it is available online.