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Citizen Media from Burma


SF Chronicle: Bloggers in Burma keep world informed during military crackdown.

Dodging a deadly military crackdown that has killed at least nine protesters, Burmese bloggers are on the front lines, providing news and photos of death and insurrection.

It’s more than bloggers, of course, but let’s go ahead and use that word as a proxy for what’s happening — the explosion of edge-in media and its use to get the word out about vital events.

Today, Burma’s junta appears to have cut off Internet access as part of its brutal crackdown. This will work, briefly, but is the government willing to shut down all communications indefinitely, including mobile phones?

The questions of reliability and trust will be paramount in what’s coming out of Burma, Net or no Net. We are distinctly inclined to trust what we see from on-the-ground observers in cases such as this, where the regime is so odious that it’s tempting to believe it would commit any atrocity to preserve its power. We need to exercise some caution, and we need to sort out the reliable observers from the ones who will certainly use turmoil to push specific agendas. (Note: I am not pointing at anything in this case, just observing that it’s something to watch for.)

I recently hosted journalists from developing nations at a Berkeley workshop. I told them — some who live and work in places where it’s physically dangerous, not just economically difficult, to be journalists — that they humble the rest of us. (As noted in coments, by the way, one of the dead in Burma is a professional photographer, apparently gunned down in cold blood.) I feel the same for the brave people who are telling us today what a corrupt and brutal government is doing halfway around the world.

We frequently speak of pivotal events in the citizen media world. I suspect this may be one of them.

UPDATE: I discussed all this on Friday night’s News Hour with Jim Lehrer. Here’s a Real Audio link and a link to a downloadable MP3 file.

12 Comments on “Citizen Media from Burma”

  1. #1 Brian Robinson
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 10:49 am

    And let’s not forget the sacrifice of mainstream journalists, such as APF photo journalist Kenji Nagai, gunned down by the Burmese military.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 11:55 am

    By no means did I mean to slight the AFP journalist. Thanks.

  3. #3 Dan Gillmor
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Is it clear where that video came from?

  4. #4 Brian Robinson
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    I’ve not been able to track the source so far. Could be an amateur video, given the quality and the distance involved.

  5. #5 Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » More on Burma
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    […] Gillmor has a post today that includes this quote: I recently hosted journalists from developing nations at a Berkeley […]

  6. #6 Vietland Staffs
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 9:53 pm



    16204 Viki Lynn Place, Pflugerville, Texas 78660, USA

    Tel: 512-251-9016

    To: The Burmese People

    The Burmese Government

    Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi

    The Secretary General of the United Nation

    The Association of South-East Asian Nations

    The U.S. Congress

    President George Bush of the United States of America.

    All International Organizations for Human Rights, Democracy and Freedom.

    All International Mass Media.


    We Support the Democratic Movement in Burma

    We are sending this message to the freedom loving world to condemn the violent oppression of the Burmese government upon their unarmed citizens who have been peacefully struggling for their freedom and democracy.
    The fact that a government uses lethal weapon to shot at their people is a sign of their weakness and indeed, their imminent self-destruction.

    We are in the first decade of the 21st century; where there are a few authoritarian regimes exist. The tendency of the new era is democracy and Liberty for all humankind. Any regime that swims against this current must be terminated.

    We strongly urge the Burmese government to stop killing their people and render all rights that they have been demanding since the military dictatorship was established in Burma.

    We were soldiers once, and we learnt that the men and women in the armed forces are sons and daughters of the people. They roles are to defend the country and to protect the people. They should not be used to kill their parents.

    We strongly support Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and all the democratic movements in Burma. Once democracy in Burma prevails, next will be in Vietnam.

    Our hearts and prayer are with the Burmese People.

    Michael Do

    President, VAVA of Austin


    September 27, 2007

  7. #7 LAWYER
    on Sep 28th, 2007 at 11:58 pm

    APF photo journalist Kenji Nagai, gunned down by the Burmese military.

  8. #8 Brian McNeil
    on Sep 29th, 2007 at 1:44 am

    I’ve been tracking the Burma (or Myanmar if you accept the name change) issue. One rumour I was told was that the junta had cut Internet access within the country.

    Unfortunately it is likely that the Chinese will continue to support the Junta and a citizens’ uprising will be bloodily suppressed.

    We have some coverage on Wikinews…

    I believe the key to a health democracy is an educated and informed electorate. Anyone can help bring that about by getting involved with Wikinews.

  9. #9 Juan Giner
    on Sep 29th, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Unfortunately the Western media has done a very poor job covering the Burma revolt.

    See how the pictures of the killing of the APF photographer were presented in some newspapers.

    A shame!

  10. #10 Blogging Burma : Tama Leaver dot Net
    on Sep 29th, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    […] in Burma keep world informed during military crackdown’ in the San Francisco Chronicle and Dan Gillmor’s response at the Centre for Citizen Media where he points out, quite rightly, that there’s a lot more […]

  11. #11 Insider stories - Myanmar (Burma) and citizen journalism « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace)
    on Sep 29th, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    […] as in 1988, this repressive regime through sheer terror and outright murder hold its grip on power, Dan Gillmor expresses a word of caution: The questions of reliability and trust will be paramount in what’s coming out of Burma, Net or […]

  12. #12 Free Burma!
    on Sep 30th, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Free Burma!
    International Bloggers’ Day for Burma on the 4th of October

    International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.