It’s one thing to brutally suppress your own countrymen as they protest for democracy, but it’s another thing to do it in full view of the world. Indeed, in the internet age, revolution ain’t what it used to be.
Burmese democracy protesters, for example, no longer rely on the BBC, dissident journalists or professional Burma-watchers to get their story out. With a camera, a mobile phone, and a copy of the Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents by Reporters Without Border, they can take the story to the world themselves. In democratic countries we say the internet has democratised the media, but in countries like Burma it’s being used as a tool to democratise the entire nation.
The Burmese military acknowledged that last week when it took an axe, so to speak, to the nation’s IT infrastructure. News.com.au reports:
First they arrested individuals blogging about the protests and confiscated their computers. Then they blocked individual Burmese blogs, and last Wednesday they blocked all of them. But the overseas sites were beyond its reach, so on Friday it switched off the internet altogether.
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Uncomfortably for the military, the reports, photos and video footage published on local blogs was syndicated by global news organisations. Here are a few of the key moments and sources of coverage, most of them courtesy of Burma’s citizen journalists.
The Democratic Voice of Burma: A rich source of news report and video footage, and source of one of the most powerful images yet to find its way out of Burma via the web — a dead monk floating in a river near Rangoon:
Shooting of a Japanese journalist: News of the shooting of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai was reported worldwide, including this graphic report on Japanese television.
ko htike’s prosaic collection: Formerly a literary blog, ko htike’s site has become a key source of news. Alongside the extensive collection of photos and videos, it carries almost daily news updates, including this from Sunday:
A troop of lone-tein (riot police comprised of paid thugs) protected by the military trucks, raided the monastery with 200 studying monks. They systematically ordered all the monks to line up and banged and crushed each one’s head against the brick wall of the monastery. One by one, the peaceful, non resisting monks, fell to the ground, screaming in pain. Then, they tore off the red robes and threw them all in the military trucks (like rice bags) and took the bodies away.
The head monk of the monastery, was tied up in the middle of the monastery, tortured, bludgeoned, and later died the same day, today. Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the monastery, warded off by troops with bayoneted rifles, unable to help their helpless monks being slaughtered inside the monastery. Their every try to forge ahead was met with the bayonets.
When all is done, only 10 out of 200 remained alive, hiding in the monastery. Blood stained everywhere on the walls and floors of the monastery.
Niknayman: Another Burmese blog with video and pictures taken from within the protest. Your browser may have difficulty translating the Burmese text, but the images tell a story all their own.
The Irrawaddy: A newspaper based in Thailand that has been feeding extensive, well-researched news reports to the rest of the world.
October 01, 2007—“One of them stopped breathing while I was holding him in my arms. I was so sad that I just went home. The young men that were killed were all good people. Yet I am sure more people will have to die. Everyone is so depressed and all we can do is give up our lives.”
This is the experience of a young man who took part in the demonstration in front of Ngwe Kyar Yan Monastery on September 27 after soldiers had conducted a midnight raid on the monastery and arrested more than 250 monks…