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Posts Tagged ‘burma protests’

Down But Not Out: Burmese Citizen Journalism

Posted by Jacqueline on October 6, 2007

The brave citizen journalists, photographers, bloggers, and videographers on the ground in Burma may be partially silenced by the military junta government’s stringent censorship, but they are not totally quiet.  Instead, they’ve been forced to utilize more complicated methods to get the word out, like smuggling images in cell phones and breaking down files in order to send out them out undetected.

According to David Mathieson, an expert from the Human Rights Watch (quoted in this New York Times article):

“It is not clear how much longer the generals can hold back the future. Technology is making it harder for dictators and juntas to draw a curtain of secrecy.

“There are always ways people find of getting information out, and authorities always have to struggle with them,” said Mitchell Stephens, a professor of journalism at New York University and the author of “A History of News.”

“There are fewer and fewer events that we don’t have film images of: the world is filled with Zapruders,” he said, referring to Abraham Zapruder, the onlooker who recorded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Before Friday’s blackout, Myanmar’s hit-and-run journalists were staging a virtuoso demonstration of the power of the Internet to outmaneuver a repressive government. A guerrilla army of citizen reporters was smuggling out pictures even as events were unfolding, and the world was watching.”

Hopefully, the continued efforts of the citizen journalists and reporters in Burma will manage to keep the world’s eyes on their corrupt government – and that other nations will draw positive lessons from this situation. 

Do you have ideas for citizen journalists in places where the technological reach is small and freedom of the press is but a pipe dream?  Any projects that could help them achieve their goals?  Enter the Knight News Challenge and you could win a grant and make your innovations a reality.

Bonus links:

The Human Rights Watch’s Burma section – here’s a lot more information on the current government and the country’s recent history.

The NY Times’ The Lede Blog’s latest post on Burma – be sure to check out the comments and the reactions from Burmese peoples and other reporters who have been there in the past few months.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, New Media, Technology, Web | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

Posted by Jacqueline on September 30, 2007

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.

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, Digital Media, General, Journalism, New Media, Web | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“The More They Try To Suppress The Situation, The More Will Come Out”

Posted by Jacqueline on September 28, 2007

Two days ago I wrote about how citizen journalists were taking advantage of technology to report what the real situation on the ground is in Myanmar/Burma, and although the current military junta regime has been trying to staunch the flow of information exiting the country, reports and photos are still making their way into the inboxes of reporters and bloggers outside the country.  It seems that the truth will come out, whatever the cost.

The Wall Street Journal covered it the story again today:

“In the age of YouTube, cellphone cameras and text messaging, technology is playing a critical role in helping news organizations and international groups follow Myanmar’s biggest protests in nearly two decades. Citizen witnesses are using cellphones and the Internet to beam out images of bloodied monks and street fires, subverting the Myanmar government’s effort to control media coverage and present a sanitized version of the uprising. The Associated Press reported yesterday that soldiers in Yangon fired automatic weapons into a crowd of demonstrators as tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters converged in the capital. Wire services have reported the number of dead at nine, citing the state media. (See related article.)”

If you look at it philosophically, one of the key aspects of Web 2.0 is the committment to transparency – in the Information Age, it is no longer possible to completely control your public image, whether you’re a celebrity, a corporation, or even a government.  Whistle-blowers, citizen bloggers, and other investigative types will make the truth known; and although we don’t yet know how the political situation in Burma will play out, there is something wonderful about the fact that the current government cannot hide behind an iron curtain of silence, guarded borders, and a lack of technology/internet access.  The implicit promise that all actions will be performed with the global stage is a powerful message.

The Lede blog at the New York Times also discusses Myanmar/Burma, including the U.S. government’s reaction.  Author Mike Nizza writes:

“The White House is not buying that technical difficulties caused the internet shutdown in Myanmar today. “They don’t want the world to see what is going on there,” said Scott Stanzel, a spokesman.

In another sign of a government campaign to extinguish media coverage, a witness told The Irrawaddy (one of the blogs posting citizen reports) that soldiers were “singling out people with cameras” today.”

So how is this related the Knight Foundation’s challenge?  Figuring out a way to channel  and organize all the information coming out of Burma (and similar situations that unfortunately, will probably still occur in other nations) and making it possible for citizen journalists to work together and share information in a safe, protected (read: totally anonymous with encrypted IP addresses) fashion.  Instead of focusing on technology that makes people’s lives a little easier, a development like this could make a very real life-or-death difference.

*This is probably painfully obvious, but some of the links in the above stories include rather graphic images and video clips, so consider yourself warned.*

Posted in Blogging, Citizen Journalism, General, Journalism, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »