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Burma's tech test

The reporting of the protests in Burma represents a fascinating application of lessons learned in the past few years about organizing and reporting online - and probably even about censoring Web sites.  The tools of citizen journalism have been steadily improving since the DIY digital rally for tsunami stricken Southeast Asian regions raised the eyebrows of media watchers everywhere. And the professional media have done more than just watch citizen journalism grow. Nearly every mainstream media outlet has developed a means of actively soliciting content from their audience (ahem). While it can sometimes be the case that when the media can't report on a story it reports on the reporting of the story, as copiously as mainstream media is cranking out boilerplate citizen journalism articles, they're also ingesting and processing photos, videos and news tips straight from the street from people who are not being paid or assigned to cover the story.

The stand-out line for me in this Wall Street Journal article was, "One blogger dubbed 'Moezack,' whose photos and descriptions of the protests -- sometimes posted minutes after events occurred -- were picked up by the international press, had stopped blogging." (FWIW, This is Moezack's blog, Today Burma.)

Communication tools for the Web have been improving, becoming more efficient, mobile based, and with more useful features. Ironically, one of the more useful tools in disseminating information on this story is the "Cbox" a comment box that works almost like an old school chat room.

Sophisticated efforts by repressive governments to block, ban, cordon and censor the Web have also increased, but then corresponding efforts to circumvent those blocks and keep the flow of information free have also made gains - both in technology like proxy servers and wireless devices and organization with small news sites run by expats with friends still in-country and concerned activist groups like Reporters Without Borders.

And so we find it all come to a head in Burma. Citizens with cameras and camera phones and video cameras and blogs and YouTube accounts and Facebook pages. A global media poised to accept the help of amateurs to report a story that's difficult to access in an official capacity. And a network of expats and cyber activists working to find loopholes and hacks as fast as the government can cut cords and pull plugs.

What I clicked, including some examples of what I've mentioned above:

"Burma is blacked out now!" It is amazing the lengths the government is going to in order to keep its shameful secrets.

What a censored page looks like to someone in Burma (via Myo Chit).

And in case you were wondering, much of the media in Burma called it quits when they were being forced to print state propaganda.

Speaking of propaganda, Voice of America news reports on Burmese junta propaganda
(Link found among the many helpful posts at Bangkok Pundit.)

That Facebook page that's been making news: Support the Monks' protest in Burma

The Burma News Cbox - A scrolling newswire of tips, reports, rumors, links, photos. Clean and simple and one of the most useful things out there. A Cbox is a comment box that would usually appear in the margin of a blog for visitors to leave comments. The untranslated, original version is Niknayman.

Here's a collection of Cboxes on a single page.

Speaking of compiling and translating, Burma-Myanmar Genocide 2007 - "Here, we present you most updated news about current ongoing genocide in Burma/Myanmar. A translated English version of many Burmese/Myanmar blogs from within the country, for international viewers."

From that blog I saw this idea:

29 Sep 07, 11:30 - MyoThant: A group of 88-generation activists are urging UN and US & UK embassies in Rangoon to open a 1-page web service via WIFI access to general public just to submit news photos (with user name: 2007, pw: 2007). Please write to them to request this.

I wonder what kind of trouble it would cause if there was Wifi at the US Embassy in defiance of the national Internet shut-down. I imagine they'd simply deny access to the embassy.

The Burma Digest YouTube channel - Protest videos from inside the country.

Another YouTube channel of protest videos: Juvenilebirds

Those organizing expats:

  • Democratic Voice of Burma - News from inside the country based in Norway.
  • Mizzima News - Exiled Burmese journalists based in Delhi, India.
  • Ko Htike - An expat blogging from London, relaying reports and photos from contacts inside Burma.

Global Voices - Myanmar (Burma) - For international news of this nature Global Voices should be your first click, not just for news but for further links and translations. It's certainly better than randomly clicking through blog directories for worthwhile blog content.

Of course, if you did want to randomly flip through a blog director, you can. If nothing else, it gives a sense of what normal life is like there.

Speaking of worthwhile blog content, Dr. Lun Swe's blog is not in English but you don't need language to look at the photos. This is where I first saw the now infamous series of photos of the Japanese photographer shot and dying in the street. (I've seen the photos with a Reuters credit but Reuters only names "stringer" as the source, so it's not clear to me who took the originals.)

Speaking of the shooting of the Japanese photographer, I'd heard there was video of the shooting as well. All I found of that was this news report. ADDING: There's also this. It's a split second at 3:40, replayed again in the last few seconds of the clip. The point here is not to be ghoulish about the death but to document the abuse and remove any deniability.

As I write this, rumors of a mutiny or coup are popping up on several sites. Andrew Sullivan rounds up links.

That Jim Carrey video - He's got a new one now about sending e-mail to the UN, but this is the earlier one in which he explains the situation in Burma. I mention it only because at some point you're going to be watching some serious news about this story and Jim Carrey is going to show up on the TV screen and you're going to say, "WTF is Jim Carrey doing on this serious news story??"

This McConnell/Feinstein video and two bucks will get you on the NYC subway.