With the aim to balance out very unequal distribution of articles about development cooperation between EU15 and EU13, Minority Rights Group took our group of ten to get first-hand experience reporting in Southeast Asia. What we learned, however, had to do more with our journalistic methods than with EU development aid and cooperation.
February marked the tenth year since I started working as a foreign desk journalist at a small but prominent Lithuanian newspaper (which no longer exists). During those years as a staff writer and later as a freelancer I entirely depended, like many colleagues from our region, on other organisations to fund any reporting missions abroad, or used personal travels for reporting. There was a time when Lithuanian media did not even have a permanent correspondent in Brussels. Already low budgets for reporting in Central and Eastern Europe have been further cropped since the economic crisis and austerity hit its media sector.
For this and other reasons the unique access to an enhanced-security village in Kaeng Krachan national park already provided fresh ideas for several stories. On the other hand, following many of the journalistic principles in a traditional community amidst tension (ethnic Karen living in the national park face increasing restrictions on their agricultural activity and foraging in the name of forest preservation) was challenging. For instance, it is always better to be alone with the source (and translator) in a safe space, but I had read in advance not to mess with the local hierarchies of Thailand’s mountain peoples, and did not dare to object when one of the village headmen invited himself to an interview with a local worker. Continue reading