Our History

The Irrawaddy Publishing Group (IPG) was founded in 1993 by a group of Burmese journalists living in exile in Thailand. The Irrawaddy is a leading source of reliable news, information, and analysis on Burma and the Southeast Asian region.

From its inception, Irrawaddy has been an independent news media group, unaffiliated with any political party, organization or government. The Irrawaddy is neither an advocacy group nor an NGO campaigning for particular causes. We believe that media must be free and independent and we strive to preserve press freedom.

The Irrawaddy inspires democratic values via the publication of news that is censored in Burma. We work with international media and media inside Burma, to provide uncensored information on the on-going crisis in Burma for both the Burmese and international community.

The Irrawaddy originated from the activities of a group of young Burmese activists who were forced to flee the persecution of the military regime in Burma, over the1988 democracy uprisings. They fled into exile in Thailand where they worked passionately to alert the international community about the atrocities occurring in their homeland.

1992: Irrawaddy Director Aung Zaw founded the Burma Information Group (BIG) in Bangkok, Thailand, to document the human rights violations in Burma, including the unlawful detention of members of the democratic opposition, other dissidents and ethnic groups. The BIG released several reports on the situation of human rights inside Burma: to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Asia and other agencies, as well as Bangkok-based newspapers such as The Nation and The Bangkok Post.

1993: Aung Zaw launched The Irrawaddy news magazine in Bangkok, covering Burma affairs. It was the first independent news publication unaffiliated with Burmese political dissident groups in exile and in Burma. The magazine subsequently became a monthly publication, promoting press freedom and independent media, and gained an international reputation for balanced, informative and in-depth reporting.

1996: The Irrawaddy relocated its operations to the more secure location of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, where it is able to gather information from a wide variety of sources, enabling critical examination of reports and closer links to the border areas of Burma.

1999: The Irrawaddy magazine expanded its coverage to include other countries in Southeast Asia undergoing transitions to democratic forms of government, while retaining a prime focus on Burma.

2000: The Irrawaddy online English language news service was launched, providing daily news and analysis on Burma. Soon after its launch the online version became widely popular, and has since gained an increasing number of readers and is regarded as one of the most credible news services on Burma.

2001: The Burmese language Irrawaddy website was launched targeting a growing number of Burmese readers worldwide who seek critical analysis, information and monitoring of democratic reform and human rights issues in Burma.

Since 2010 The Irrawaddy has produced radio, podcasts, documentaries and TV programs - aiming to reach audiences people inside Burma. We collaborate with other media agencies to broadcast radio and satellite TV programs promoting information, analysis, and interactive commentary on democracy, human rights and political development in Burma.

Our Readers

The Irrawaddy reaches millions of people worldwide in USA, Canada, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, Japan, China and East Asian nations. Our subscribers include NGOs, UN agencies, government and donor agencies, policy-makers, universities, embassies, academics, activists, media organizations, journalists and concerned individuals.

Inside Burma (despite being censored) the Irrawaddy reaches embassies and international organizations, prominent opposition figures, journalists, members or the business community, political activists, civil society and NGOs, the Burmese military junta as well as the general public.

Our Mission

Our mission is to cover the news in Burma and Southeast Asia accurately and impartially. 

In this world full of crisis and conflict, the media plays a crucial role in highlighting controversies and scandals and exposing the truth of events occurring in conflict zones. Critical and independent media cannot sit idly and report news on crisis with detachment. We believe media is part of the solution and not part of the problem. Thus, we are not slaves to neutrality - our duty is to search for the truth and inform our readers.

We have a strong belief in democracy, and believe that without free media a democratic society is incomplete. It is our duty to protect and preserve press freedom and develop independent media free from bias and influences.

In our editorial pages, we will never shy away from voicing criticism and opening up healthy debate for the public – we adhere to our editorial principles and will not compromise.

As exiled journalists, we aim to return to Burma once democracy has been restored, to establish independent media services using the experience and expertise gained whilst in exile.

Our Objectives

  1. The Irrawaddy Publishing Group Organizational Objectives

    1.To report accurate news and to provide editorial, analyses of events in Burma and Burma-related issues in Southeast Asian countries.
    2.To raise international awareness of political and socio-economic developments in the region, particularly Burma, through The Irrawaddy magazine and The Irrawaddy web site to have policy impact.
    3.To give Burmese journalists both from inside Burma and in exile an opportunity to develop skills that will be necessary for restoring a free, independent and professional press in the country.
    4.To provide an alternative to both mainstream media outlets and the government controlled press in Burma and other Asian nations.
    5.To build up a stronger network of journalistic contacts inside Burma.
    6.To operate English and Burmese-language Web sites available on-line, targeting international and domestic audience, policy makers, UN, NGOs, embassies and governments around the world who are interested in Burma issues as well as hundreds of thousands of Burmese living abroad.
    7.To return to Burma once democracy has been restored, to establish an independent media agency publishing in English and Burmese language; using the experience and expertise gained while in exile.

Our Team

The Irrawaddy has a professional, diverse, passionate and skilled team of reporters who provide consistent, high quality news stories on Burma.

The majority of The Irrawaddy reporters operate from our base in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which has an editorial team of reporters, video journalists, editors, photographers, web designers and administrators. Our staff team is diverse and includes; ethnic Burmese, staff from other ethnic background (such as Karen, Mon, Kachin and Shan), and expatriate staff members who have understanding and in-depth knowledge of Burma and Southeast Asian affairs.

Those from Burma who work with The Irrawaddy take great risks and often sacrifice their personal freedom in the pursuit of media freedom for Burma. Many of our reporters have fled Burma due to political persecution and are unable to return home to their families and communities. Many will face certain imprisonment if they do return for daring to go public with their views and opinions, challenging the dictatorship in Burma via their media work in exile, with The Irrawaddy.

A small team of courageous, committed and professional journalists work for The Irrawaddy from inside Burma. These journalists and “stringers” contribute specialist coverage and on-going news articles for The Irrawaddy, on issues that are occurring across the country inside Burma. They make the difficult choice to challenge the climate of censorship in Burma, and knowingly risking their personal security, in their drive to get the news on Burma out to the world.

Since the Irrawaddy’s inception, one of our main objectives has been to recruit and train journalists from Burma for the benefit of Burmese society inside and outside the country. Over the years, the Irrawaddy has recruited young people from inside Burma, from ethnic states and communities inside and in exile, from refugee camps and border areas of Thailand. The Irrawaddy provides an opportunity for skills development, training and knowledge building about democracy and press freedom for all who work with us. Since 2002 we have managed an Internship and Exchange program which provides 3 month placements for journalists, media practitioners, citizen reporters and others from Burma to work with The Irrawaddy and develop independent media skills for the future. We also encourage our staff members to study and receive journalism training in other countries in the region or in the West.

The Irrawaddy team strives to develop professional, independent journalism in the belief that one day there will be press freedom in Burma.

Our Funding

The Irrawaddy is a non-profit media organization seeking funding and grants from private foundations, NGOs, individuals and governments around the world. The support we receive from our donors is extremely valuable and crucial to our mission.

The Irrawaddy relies on donor funding to support our operations as exiled media.

We are supported by individual donors who provide financial contributions, either as regular or one-off donations, to assist us in our media work. Donations can be made online, via mail, or in person at The Irrawaddy office, with each donor receiving an acknowledgement for their generous contribution. We have also been supported by our readers who subscribe to or purchase the Irrawaddy monthly English language magazine. The confidentiality of individual donors and subscribers is guaranteed via the Irrawaddy Privacy Policy.

The Irrawaddy is primarily supported by over 15 large and small donors with the majority of our budget funded by governments and international NGOs worldwide. Over the past 17 years The Irrawaddy has been supported by donors from the following countries: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the significant commitment from international donors who have continued to support the development of press freedom and democratic change in Burma over so many years.

The Irrawaddy maintains professional, transparent relations of mutual respect with our donors according to the Irrawaddy Fundraising Policy. We undertake legally binding funding contracts with our donor partners and provide regular financial and activity reports. Donor funding is spent on distribution, printing, mailing, website production, office maintenance and equipment, news reporting trips, fees and salaries for staff members and contributors. The Irrawaddy uses external auditors to ensure that our book-keeping and accounting systems are transparent and we provide an annual audited financial report to all of our donor agencies.

The Irrawaddy is not yet a commercially viable enterprise. As exiled media we face challenges in generating our own income. The government in Burma actively tries to block or censure The Irrawaddy media products inside the country – meaning we do not have easy access to our readers. The Irrawaddy however actively targets multi-media, online and print publications, and distributes these at no cost to our readers inside the country Our international market is globally dispersed and includes paid subscribers for the Irrawaddy magazine and free access for readers worldwide to access our daily websites.

The Irrawaddy Business Plan aims to increase our income generation via advertising, subscriptions and media sales. We are keen to attract dynamic and progressive investors and partners, who value independent media, have a high level of corporate responsibility, and can align with our main goal to promote widespread access to news and information on Burma.

Each year the Irrawaddy seeks renewed support from international donors for our annual operations and publications. We greatly appreciate donors who are able to commit to multi-year funding support. We are always interested in finding new partners and sponsors who wish to support the development of free media, independent journalism and democratic change in Burma.

The Irrawaddy appreciates donors, sponsors and partners who have no intention of interfering in the editorial policies of our publications and are willing to provide financial assistance without strings attached or conditions regarding editorial matters. We have developed a clear policy on editorial independence to safeguard and nurture our independence within the highly politicized environment related to democratic change in Burma.

The Irrawaddy highly appreciates donors who understand the nature of our operations. We are delighted to work with donors who recognize the progress made by our publication and who encourage professionalism and a high standard of journalism.

Thank you.
The Irrawaddy

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