The Plank

Where The Burma News Comes From

By and

In case anyone missed it, The Wall Street Journal has a great story today about how ordinary people in Burma--bloggers and folks with cell-phone cameras--have been the main source for news about the bloody crackdown that's going on right now. "The last time there was a protest of this scale... was 1988, when a pro-democracy uprising was crushed by the military and more than 3,000 people died. First reports of that event came from diplomats and official media." Of course, as Mike Nizza notes, the regime is now trying to shut down those few bloggers who are broadcasting pictures by cutting off the country's internet access altogether.

Kerry Howley, meanwhile, points out that while "citizen journalism" certainly helps people outside the country get more info, it's probably not reaching that many people in Burma:

The country's communications infrastructure is incredibly limited. Seven people out of 1,000 own televisions, and they're not getting BBC. They're watching MRTV-3: all government propaganda, all the time. Cell phones cost thousands of dollars; even most expats don't carry them. I worked in relatively cosmopolitan Yangon, but a friend who worked in upper Burma once told me the villagers he worked with had never heard of Aung San Suu Kyi. The land lines rarely work, and when they do, sane people do not discuss political matters over them. It's probably safe to assume you know more about what's going down on Sule Pagoda Road than much of Burma does.

--Bradford Plumer

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