Much has already been made of the efforts made by citizen journalists inside Myanmar/Burma to document the deteriorating political situation, but their work is even more crucial in light of the fact that privately-owned newspapers in Burma have decided to stop their presses instead of printing more government propaganda.
“They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.
Kumudra, Seven Days, Pyi Myanmar and many other news journals have decided to stop or suspend publication, and have already informed the censor board of their decision. Rather than give the real reason for their decision, they blamed the ongoing instability which is preventing journalists from being able to go out and report.”
Although the nation is sadly no stranger to protests, riots, and the resulting violent response by the military regime, this time it is even worse than the previous 1988 uprisings.
“In 88 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist.”
Both quotes are taken from this article on the Democratic Voice of Burma, a nonprofit organization that gives voice to the disenfranchised Burmese people and serves to inform the rest of the world about the real state of that nation.
In a country where freedom of the press is greatly compromised and censorship is the norm, it is paramount that brave citizen journalists still relay news to the outside world in order to make sure that the voice of the people is heard and make the international community aware of their plight. After all, does anyone think that Myanmar/Burma protests and their sad consequences would currently be enjoying the same level of awareness without the work of the bloggers, photographers, and videographers who are sending reports out? Yes, the UN would probably get involved, but by posting images and video clips of the actions taken by the military junta they’ve received an impressive global outpouring of support that would have otherwise been unlikely.
Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic writes about how satellite photos of the riots might be available soon. “Maybe technology can keep the world focused”, he says. In addition, “Keeping the world’s attention through the blogosphere is now essential. The revolution is not only going to be blogged; in some respects, the blogosphere is now critical to the survival of the revolution.” (Guess who inspired the title of this post?) Thanks to technology, the outside world cannot be locked out and the Burmese military regime cannot be left to commit their atrocious human rights violations in private.
One more note – although the current Myamar government is trying to cut their people off from the outside media with measures like cutting off most internet connections, they can still view channels like CNN and BBC from their isolated compounds, according to the UK Telegraph:
“The bureaucracy has been moved to Naypyidaw, far away from ordinary people, and army families live in colonies cut off from civilians.
“I think the regime really believes this is just a few individuals stirred up by ‘destructive elements’, not the makings of a popular uprising reflecting the will of the people,” said a western diplomat.
“I think they believe their own propaganda.”
But he added that, although isolated, the generals are not completely immune to foreign pressure.
“They have the BBC up there in Naypyidaw. They have CNN. And I’m sure they’re watching it,” he said.
Yet another example of the internet making the world smaller and allowing ordinary people to make a huge impact, although this one isn’t nearly as warm and fuzzy as most of the others. And as always, if you have ideas on how to help citizen journalists in situations like this one get the word out, you should check out the Knight News Challenge.