Internews partner Myint Zaw wins prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize

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Internews, Yangoon, Myanmar

Myint Zaw, a journalist from Myanmar and a long-time local partner of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN), is one of six environmental practitioners from around the world, who has won this year's Goldman Environmental Prize.

Myint Zaw won the award for a national movement he launched that stopped construction of the Myitsone Dam on Myanmar’s treasured Irrawaddy River. He was successful despite facing heavy government scrutiny and restricted use of tools like email or social media.

Myint Zaw, who had previously helped to organize Internews-sponsored journalism training workshops that focused on issues such as forests and coastal resources, says, “The media and journalists play a crucial role in raising public awareness about the Myitsone dam and I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Earth Journalism Network for all their support.”

An EJN-sponsored journalism expedition on the Irrawaddy River in 2009 also helped to turn the government against supporting construction of a controversial dam. EJN supported the eight-day trip that included 26 journalists, writers, photographers and documentary film-makers on the Irrawaddy River north of Mandalay.

In 2010, Myint Zaw and some of the Internews alumni joined together with local donors and an NGO, the Green Hearts Environmental Network, to produce a pictorial book, “The Sketch of a River: The Ayeyarwady,” and organize a series of photo exhibitions on the Irrawaddy, using pictures taken during the expedition.

In 2011, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi joined one of these events and spoke at the opening ceremony, drawing huge media attention to the issue of the river’s health and the potential impact of the Myitsone Dam being built near its headwaters. The attention helped push Prime Minister Thein Sein into eventually suspending the dam construction due to environmental concerns.

Still, there is more work to be done by journalists to maintain transparency and keep reforms in place. The main contractor and financial backer of the Myitsone Dam - the China Power Investment Corporation Yunnan (CPI) – is still pushing to have the project completed.

Internews’ Burma country program and its environmental program, the Earth Journalism Network, have collaborated on numerous journalism training programs inside the Southeast Asian country for more than a decade.