Dutch press: ‘Birma’ or ‘Myanmar’?

In 1995 the Birmese military junta changed the name of the country into ‘Myanmar’. An age old name for the area in South Asia that now is Birma (Dutch spelling). That name was not recognized by the United States, many other countries at the United Nations and many (western) media.

Ever since that last group, the media, have been using the name ‘Birma’, partly to support the Birmese opposition that wanted (more) freedom for the people in Birma and to support the honorable Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi.

Today that same Aung San Sui Kyi pleaded for the release of the Russian popband Pussy Riot. And the media name her ‘Birmese opposition leader’. And she certainly is that. But not the Dutch news website NU.nl. They seem to be oblivous of the value of the name ‘Birma’ for the Birmese people. And so they published the following:

Mrs. “Suu Kyi”, her name obviously being too loong or complicated to list properly in the title, is a Myanmarese opposition leader. According to that news site. NU.nl is building on a reputation of shallowness as they frequently display a total lack for recent history, and this to be just another error in their list of errors. Or is there something else happening?

Remember my comments concerning Dutch journalism and the lack of checks and balances in the editorial teams of the major Dutch newspapers and news websites? Some time ago I wrote a rant on this website against the Dutch journalistic practice of cut-and-paste-journalism. Meaning the unchecked republication of news as formulated by the known press agencies and most notoriously the ANP (Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau, the Dutch Press Agency and Hollands version of AFP and Reuters).

And they did it again. It is not only NU.nl but it is also a list of known Dutch newspapers including de Telegraaf, Wegener newspapers, and a list of news sites still holding on to the cut’n’paste journalism practice. Because the source of the ‘Myanmarese’ in stead of ‘Birmese’ politically sensitive error is that ANP news agency. (Compliments to the ‘white raven’ newspaper Algemeen Dagblad (www.ad.nl) who rephrased the ANP article and corrected it (seemingly based on AFP article).

So there we are. They did it again. The ANP again made an error and all the Dutch press just reprints or republishes that error because they DO NOT CHECK! Again this is a small demonstration of the lack of editorial quality of the Dutch press. For the Dutch readers this obviously means that if they value proper news handling and reporting they simply cannot trust the Dutch news media. Because they just copy’n’paste everything without checking and as such multiply errors without any limitation. The other issue with this is of course that nowadays all media have become ‘parrot-media’. They report literally the same information, they do not check that information and do not even rephrase that information.

Thank the Lord for internet where conscious readers can turn to real news media for proper reporting based on checks and balances and editorial effort in bringing quality news. For me it just underlines why I nowadays more frequently turn to my media selection consisting of Al Jazeera, BBC News, CNN, ITN, Wachington Post, New Yorker Magazine, Huffington Post, AFP, The Indian Times amongst others. Because obviously we can not trust our local media anymore.

Alice Anna Verheij © 2012

4 thoughts on “Dutch press: ‘Birma’ or ‘Myanmar’?

  1. wow, the spelling is actually ‘Burma’ not ‘Birma’… I did look it up but couldn’t find any source that says the Dutch spell it as ‘Birma’.

  2. Is it “Burma’ / ‘Burmese’ or ‘Birma’ / ‘Birmese’? May be Dutch have different spelling of Anglicised names? Can somebody make it clear?

    • We do. Like we say Macedonië for Macedonia and Engeland for England. We say Verenigde Staten for United States and Birma for Burma.
      Dutch is a different language.
      So from an anglosaxon point of view you’re right about the use of ‘Burma’ but as I am writing about the Dutch press that is writing in Dutch I used ‘Birma’ in this column.

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