The brave citizen journalists of Myanmar

By: on 29 September 2007
Posted in Asia, Burma


IT War
IT vs Guns
The Guns can't shoot down the "IT"
The Winner is Burmese People

-thread on overseas portal Mandalay Gazette

An extraordinary mobilization by “civilian” or citizen journalists and bloggers to keep information flowing out of Myanmar continued even as Burmese authorities violently targeted monks, protesters, and journalists. Images of bloody, ransacked monasteries, chaos, and casualties have circulated around the world along with a battery of videos and an outpouring of comments (see Cboxes here and here).
However, after blocking certain blogs and websites, the junta then moved to shut down the Glite revolution (named after a proxy server popular in Burmese cybercafes, this refers to the use of small-scale technologies to circumvent the firewall) and cripple the essential communication tools used by citizen journalists: cellphones and the Internet.

While filtering is typically employed to keep information from reaching within a country’s borders, the junta used a tactic much more crude than a firewall by cutting off Internet access altogether in Yangon and Mandalay. Raids on ISP offices were also reported. As a result, many of the lifelines of images, updates, and witness accounts fell at least momentarily silent or slowed to a trickle.

A chorus of voices from Myanmar, China, and elsewhere around the world calling for UN action have also pointed out the importance of China’s role, beyond the resonant example of Internet censorship that it provides. The Chinese government, Myanmar’s largest trade partner, has also recently rendered tens of thousands of websites inaccessible as a result of the unplugging of Internet data centers.

It is unclear whether or how much this “saffron revolution” resembles the “color revolutions” that took place earlier this decade in several countries in the Commonwealth of Independent States. In Georgia and Ukraine, for example, “networked” movements maximized cell phone technology and used the Internet as a platform in political mobilization for new elections. The New York Times reports that the US government is now considering purchasing cellphones to disseminate information.

Mobilization funneled through exile organizations, NGOs, and independent media has gone viral. And although media is already weighing in on the potential loss of political impact as Internet and phone access is compromised, a relatively small number of individuals has already virtually ensured that Burmese authorities will face some measure of accountability for their repression.

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