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Burmese Bloggers Get the Word Out

By Mike Nizza, The Lede, September 27, 2007

Yangon, Myanmar -- When it comes to the generals who lead Myanmar, there’s no need to ask whether their actions speak louder than words. Hardly any words come from them, or anyone else in their country if they can help it. That is why world leaders, news organizations and pretty much everyone else are all stuck on the outside looking in, wondering what will happen there next.

<< Scene of a room inside a monastery thrashed by the soldiers. Pictures such as this was sneaked out via bloggers

Foreign journalists applying for visas have mostly been turned down, and the handful of successful ones risk their lives once they reach the country. A Japanese photographer who gained entry on the eve of the crackdown on protestors was killed today, apparently by a Burmese soldier.

The news reached the outside world quickly and chillingly, in the form of two photographs published on a blog run by Ko Htike (http://www.ko-htike.blogspot.com/), an expatriate Burmese citizen living in London. He told BBC News that he has has a network of 10 people feeding him material from different locations inside the country.

“All my people are among the Buddhists, they are walking along with the march,” he said. “And as soon as they get any images or news, they pop into internet cafes and send it to me.”

The government, which controls the only two internet service providers in Myanmar, has blocked access there to his blog.

In earlier times, a crackdown like the one that has been gathering intensity over the last two days might have remained another secret kept by one of the most secretive governments in the world. But the Internet has given protesters and their supporters a way to disseminate their story.

Another leading Web site on Myanmar news, one that relies on university students in the country, is Mizzima News (http://www.mizzima.com), which most notably posted a photo of protesters visiting Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who has spent much of the past 18 years under house arrest.

Burma Digest has a channel on YouTube with video clips of events from the past few days, although nothing fresh seems to have been uploaded today yet. A California-based news site called the Mandalay Gazette also appears to have a strong network of sources in the country.

For more sites, take a look at the Myanmar channel at Global Voices.

One group has been preparing for this story since 1992, when the government of Norway agreed to allow a Burmese opposition group called the Democratic Voice of Burma (http://english.dvb.no/index.php) use the Norwegian shortwave broadcasting system for an hour a day.

Since then, the D.V.B. has built a satellite channel and a robust Web site of its own, which have been among the more dependable sources of Burma-based reports, including this latest one, adding further casualties to today’s grim death toll, which had stood at 9:

Protestors came under fire on Thamada road, where one university student was shot in the forehead and died on the spot. A monk at the same location was shot in the back and wounded, and a youth was also shot and wounded.

A foreign national is said to have been shot on Sule pagoda road, a block away from Traders Hotel.

There are continued reports of gunfire at Pansodan bridge, but no information as yet on any casualties.

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