Communicating for the Future: Building Confidence and Trust in the Myanmar Peace Process

As part of its project supporting increased understanding and improved communication of peace in Myanmar Search for Common Ground (SfCG) organized a two-day ‘Message Mapping Workshop’ at the Novotel Hotel, Yangon from 24 to 25 October. The workshop was intended to provide input and feedback into the design of a multimedia ‘message map’, to strengthen a community of practitioners and influencers who understand and help spread key messages on peace by providing some examples of best practice relating to the role of media in building peace.

The workshop was well-attended by famous artists from music and film industry, representatives from media organizations, ethnic-armed organizations (EAOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs). This is one of the seven phases that SfCG is carrying out for their three-year project, ‘Communicating for the Future’ in seven target areas; Shan Chin, Kayin, Mon, Bago, Yangon and Tanintharyi which is being supported by the Joint Peace Fund.

The first day of the workshop included a panel discussion on ‘the role of Media in Building Confidence and Trust in Peace Process’ featuring four panelists, Mi Sue Pwint, Central Executive Committee Member of the ABSDF, Daw Khine Moe Naing, Deputy Director of MRTV, U Toe Zaw Latt, Operations Director of DVB and Hilmy Ahamed, Founder of Young Asia TV (YATV) in Sri Lanka.

Mi Sue Pwint shared insights into how signatory ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) use media platforms, particularly the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory EAOs’ website and Facebook page, to keep people updated about their news and activities.

“Messaging through media is very important. We make sure that we connect with the media to inform them about what we are doing and what we would like to achieve,” she said.

Hilmy Ahamed, Founder of YATV in Sri Lanka highlighted the vital and empowering role of information and shared his experience on using media and other interactive forms as the purpose of infotainment (broadcast material which is intended both to entertain and to inform) and edutainment (video games, television programmes, or other material, intended to be both educational and enjoyable).

“YATV engaged and empowered young people to facilitate change and catalyze dialogue. If you commit to supporting peaceful solutions to whatever conflict you have, then I believe that you can contribute by using the power you have as media professionals,” he said.

The afternoon of the first day focused on the main objective of the workshop: how to bridge gaps in communications about the peace process and peacebuilding initiatives. Participants were divided into groups and discussed creating a ‘message map’ looking at who should be targeted in media campaigns and why. The participants in each group mainly discussed identifying target audiences and strategies to reach out to them as well as creating relevant programmes to engage these people.

The second day of the workshop was dedicated to parallel focus group discussions on designing a communications campaign and presenting this back to the whole group. Each group specifically discussed who is important to target, what they want the target group to think and feel and the prospective behavior and actions that they hoped to change.

Among the participants was the well-known Filmmaker Kyi Phyu Shin who participated in both days of the event. She said the workshop made her more aware of the nexus between peace and tourism and the relationship between the peace process and the natural attractions of ethnic areas in Myanmar.

“I know peace is important and I am always ready to support peace whenever I can, but this workshop opened my eyes more to the vital need for peace and has given me the urge to do something. This could even be a small thing such as posting a message about peace on Facebook,” she said.

Mahn Thein Zaw who is a CSO representative from Karen State actively participated in both days of the workshop.

“I enjoyed participating in this workshop. I noticed the complete difference in action and messaging between the state-owned and private media. I think this workshop identified a space for increased cooperation between media and CSOs,” he said.

SfCG have completed the first year of their project which has included producing a peace ‘lexicon’ of 110 peace terminologies in 10 languages and holding public consultation workshops in the project locations across seven states and regions. In the second year of the project, they will establish seven peace media labs and issue 30 media grants to initiatives support peacebuilding at both the national and local level.