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A man for his country, a media for a nation

After 50 years of military rule, Myanmar is now undergoing an exceptional period of transition. The generals who seized power in a 1962 coup d’état kept a tight grip on power, crushing dissent, denying opposition and closing the country off from the world. Dramatically, over the past two years the army has stepped back to allow for a transition to civilian government, with elections scheduled for 2015 hopefully signalling a return to genuine democracy.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | June 3, 2013

Dr. Than Htut Aung, Chairman and CEO of Eleven Media Group and 2013 WAN-IFRA Golden Pen of Freedom laureate, is one such believer. Over 13 years he has slowly built his business; from an initial staff of three and $50,000 capital investment, he now presides over a growing media empire: four titles, over 450 staff (of which more than 100 are journalists), and a healthy turnover. Regardless, he takes none of this for granted.

“I have my own set of principles on how to do business, and how to operate in the media, and I’ve never altered these,” he told WAN-IFRA during an interview at Eleven’s headquarters in Yangon. “Even with all the harassment from the regime, I always resisted and defended my journalism, my ethics and standards. I never let them touch these. In my younger days, training as a medical doctor, I was taught never to take anything for granted. I really identified with this, and as a journalist I’ve kept to the same principle. I have my sincerity, and this is my secret. ‘Never take anything for granted from the public, the country, from your business.’”

It is an ethic that Dr. Than enthusiastically pushes onto his editors and journalists, a number of whom, because of their critical opposition writing in the pages of Eleven have faced imprisonment. “I tell my reporters, if you are denied your rights to be able do the correct thing, you should not resort to doing the wrong thing – this is the effect that censorship has. In other words, if I can’t write the real story, I will refuse to write it falsely. I always aimed to show readers the real version of events, even using symbolism and metaphors if necessary to bring the real news to the public.”

Click here to see more of our coverage about Dr. Than.