Burma: Junta Tighten Web Access September 27, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Journalism, News, Web Video, YouTube.
Tags: , Bloggers, Burma, Junta, Myanmar
The military junta in Burma is reported to be attempting to shut down all internet access in the country to stop the flow of information on the Web about the chaos taking place on the streets. But word is still spilling out as citizen reporters fight back with satellite telephones, which can bypass censors, firewalls and other restrictions.
Cyber cafes have been closed and some mobile phone networks have been shut down, which has substantially cut the flow of information from Burma. However, blogs and pictures regarding the upheaval have gotten through, the footage sometimes transmitted one frame at a time by mobile phones.
It is amazing how the Burmese are able through underground networks to get things from outside and inside. Before, they were moving things hand-to-hand and now they are using the Internet.
VINCENT BRUSSELS, Head, Asian Section, Reporters Without Borders
in Oslo, a shoestring radio and TV network called the Democratic Voice of Burma has been at the forefront of receiving and broadcasting such cyber dispatches by satellite TV and shortwave radio. Founded in 1992 by exiled Myanmar students, the station is passing on nearly real-time images and information about anti-government protests – unlike in 1988.
Editors of these outfits do not want to reveal much about how undercover reporters inside Burma get news out. Journalists working openly could be arrested. Mobile phones are essential to people providing images from the ground.
The junta took the offensive today in the battle to control the flow of information by blocking popular blogs http://www.kohtike.blogspot.com, http://niknayman.blogspot.com and http://soneseyar.blogspot.com which continuously posted news and photographs of ongoing protests.
In a sign that the junta is afraid of foreign radio and satellite TV coverage, state-run media has begun blaming foreign media such as the BBC and Voice of America, for inciting the trouble. The official English-language television station, MRTV-3, has said people are being intimidated into joining the protests.
Telephone lines and mobile phone signals to monasteries, opposition politicians and student leaders have been cut to impede the uploading of pictures to be picked up by international satellite news channels and beamed around the world, including back to Burma.
BBC News reports that as the measures begin to bite, fewer pictures and video have been sent in directly from people inside Burma. It has a guide for its User Generated Content hub on making use of Web-based material from Burma:
Contributors are advised to record a short eye witness report on their mobile phone and then email BBC the MP3 file. This is an alternative to trying to get people on the phones – as all phone lines appear to be down.
A number of Facebook groups have been set up, where people are trying to share information. They are encouraging people to send the BBC any content they have. BBC has also been speaking to people who have been uploading Youtube videos.
Citizen journalists in Burma have demonstrated that the exclusion of professional reporters no longer cuts of the flow of news. Some people are circumventing the firewalls by uploading pictures directly to data hosting sites, which are harder to trace. Communication inside the country is also important. Activists use cell phones to SMS each other to set up demonstrations or tell each other where soldiers are.
Burma: The Whole Web is Watching September 26, 2007Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, Journalism, News, Web Video, YouTube.
Tags: Activism, advocacy, Blogging, Burma, Journalism
The Burmese uprising is defining citizen journalism in Asia as the military junta face the biggest challenge to their rule in two decades. The outcome is unclear in the battle of wills between Burma’s two most powerful institutions, the military and the monk-hood. But one of the world’s most repressive regimes of Internet control now confronts global ramifications of a violent crackdown at a time when the country’s communication links to the outside world are stronger than ever before.
Besides the coverage of “old media” like Reuters, Agence France-Presse and Associated Press – hundreds of Burmese bloggers are using the Web to evade censors, and tell the world what is happening under the junta’s veil of secrecy. An army of young tech-savvy witnesses work around the clock to circumvent the censors, posting pictures and videos on blogs with blow-by-blow accounts of events on the ground almost as soon as the protests happen.
Burmese-born blogger Ko Htike, based in London, has transformed his blog into a virtual news agency. Ko Htike publishes pictures, video and information sent to him by a network of underground contacts within Burma. He told BBC News that his contacts are among the Buddhist monks taking part in the current protests. As soon as they get any images or news they pop into Internet cafes and send them to him.
Elsewhere on the Web, people inside Burma have been e-mailing global news Websites like BBC News and sending pictures showing the protests. Dissident blogs such as nicknayman has been banned, but a clone of this site has resurfaced.
A prolific blogger calling himself Moezack is now wanted by the junta for slipping through their security net and posting photographs of monks marching through Rangoon on the Web. His blog disappeared today after just one day of posting images of the monks’ protests.
Other sites like Irrawaddy, Zin Media and Mizzima News, a news group run by exiled dissidents in India, provide up-to-the-minute coverage. Activists are even using Facebook, the social networking site, to air news and mobilise support. A blog on Guardian Unlimited is serving as a reference point for Burmese bloggers. On Flickr, individuals say they are live-blogging the protest here, here and here.
The use of the Internet as a political tool is the key difference between the latest protests and the 1988 uprising, which was brutally repressed. Shooting peaceful demonstrators in the full-glare of YouTube is no longer something that even Burma’s allies can condone.
Bloggers are using proxy websites, Google and YouTube to post accounts and videos of street skirmishes captured by citizen witnesses. Reporters Without Borders says its handbook for cyber-dissidents provided to young Burmese was seized upon, copied and disseminated among a growing group of the young, politically active and computer-literate.
Burmese bloggers are teaching others to use foreign-hosted proxy sites – such as your.freedom.net and glite.sayni.net – to view blocked sites and tip-toe virtually unseen through cyberspace, swapping tricks and links on their pages. Analysts say although Web access is currently at less than 1% of the population, the junta underestimated its potential.
The junta has cut off the mobile phones of prominent opposition activists and of some journalists with the foreign media. It even bars access to web-based email. But bloggers represent a parallel network that is proving difficult to close. They have managed to broadcast news even though almost every website that carries information about the country is blocked.
In 1968, demonstrators on the streets of Chicago chanted “The whole world is watching!” as TV cameras beamed images of police cracking heads into homes everywhere. Four decades later, the whole world and the Web are watching Burma, to see if the power of principled protest is greater than the power which would unleash the fist. The whole Web is watching.
23 FEB 2008
The Web played a significant role in keeping the Burmese government accountable for its actions, noted the Internet & Democracy group based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School:
“When we compare cases where the Internet has played a significant role in democratic struggles (such as the Orange Revolution in Ukraine) and the case of Burma where the use of Internet for internal political mobilization is severely limited, we may be inclined to conclude that the Internet in Burma has largely been unsuccessful to bring about significant change towards democracy.
While this observation may largely be correct, this conclusion has the danger of overlooking one fundamental aspect of the fight towards democracy – one of holding governments accountable, no matter what kind of a government it is, democratic or autocratic…”
INTERNET & DEMOCRACY blogpost, “An Overlooked Dimension of Internet and Democracy?”