“News is life and death to us”: Understanding media audiences in post-coup Myanmar

This report provides insights into the media habits of the population of Myanmar following the 2021-military coup as well as people’s news concepts, trust levels and media literacy levels.

This publication presents the findings from an audience study carried out by IMS and Nyan Corridor in June-August 2022. Due to difficulties with data collection in the current situation, the conclusions of the study apply mainly to the subset of the population that can be said to be in opposition of the military coup.

The study found that the 2021 military coup has significantly altered the media environment of the country, causing audiences to change their habits and understandings of both media and news. The military’s crackdown on independent media has made it far more difficult for people to access independent news and information and many struggle to navigate in the polarised society that is also reflected in the media landscape. The conflict is on everyone’s mind and people actively seek out information to stay updated and make informed decisions for themselves and their families. Mainstream media outlets such as Mizzima and DVB are seen as trusted sources of information where content is produced based on ethical principles, but they are unfortunately not always able of providing needed information from a hyperlocal level. In these cases, audiences rely on local media or online community media (eg. Facebook groups for specific local areas) for information.

There is no doubt that social media plays a vital role in Myanmar. Compared to the findings from an audience research study IMS conducted in 2018, where television was the preferred medium for news and information, most Burmese today rely on social media. Facebook is by far the most used platform, but people are beginning to be more vary as to how they use Facebook and leave traces of their whereabouts and political opinions. People may fear that liking, commenting or sharing news from non-military media can have consequences for their safety and security. People are in general far more conscious about their media usage and digital habits and take extra measures to protect themselves and their online identity. For instance, by using VPN servers when accessing social media and news sites or leaving their smart phones at home when leaving the house to avoid it being scrutinized by authorities. Media literacy levels also appear to have been elevated with people checking sources and fact-checking information they encounter online. This is a positive development in a country that until recently saw very low levels of media literacy and understanding of dis/misinformation on social media.

Based on the findings, the report ends with 11 recommendations directed towards both the Myanmar media and the organisations and institutions that supports the media. IMS hopes that these recommendations can serve as inspiration for the continuous support to sustain independent media in a post-coup Myanmar and ensure that the population continue to have access to relevant and reliable news and information.