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.