Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hla Hla Htay

Hla Hla Htay began working as a journalist in Burma under the military dictatorship and has been an Agence France-Presse reporter since 2004. She was the first reporter to get photos of Naypyidaw, the new capital that the paranoid generals had secretly begun building. She covered the bloody crackdown on the “Saffron Revolution” in 2007 and the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis the following year, when the military censored all attempts to expose their disastrous mismanagement of humanitarian assistance.

“Under the military, we were often followed and I had to keep changing phones to contact my sources, which was very expensive,” she said. During the years of military rule, Hla Hla Htay managed to participate in a journalism programme in Rangoon and did a three-month course in Cambodia, despite the dangers involved in any trip abroad. She joined AFP after two years as an editor at Today Publishing House and is now AFP’s Rangoon bureau chief.

“Many people think journalism is a man’s job. I remember that some of my male colleagues used to ‘joke’ that it was thanks to my ‘feminine wiles’ that I managed to get an exclusive or verify information. As a Burmese woman, working as a journalist means confronting gender issues and cultural taboos. As far as I’m concerned, I pay attention to my professional honesty and try not to worry about this kind of discrimination.”

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