Mission of Burma

Getting around the country's attempted news blackout

As the Burmese military juanta continues its violent crackdown on demonstrators, one casualty in the clashes was veteran Japanese Journalist Kenji Nagai, who was murdered by a Burmese soldier yesterday in a shooting that was caught on tape.

But images like Nagai being shot at point blank range might become few and far between as the military government of Burma shuts down communication channels in and out of the country. Since the protests began, the Internet has been crucial in exposing the events as they unraveled. Now, reports have come in indicating that Internet access to and in the country has been cut off by what some believe was an active government decision.

Whether or not this suspicious “blackout” was a state choice to silence the flow of information, Burmese citizens are trying to get around it. Text-messaged updates and pictures are coming out of the country from cellular phones, as civilians have taken an active role in reporting what is going on on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Burmese state television station has taken to accusing Western journalists of instigation and lies. It advises citizens to “beware of destructionists, BBC and VOA” which are “sky-full of liars.” One news source that is managing to get stories out is Mizzima News, based in New Delhi, India. Established nine years ago by exiled Burmese journalists devoted to increasing awareness about the country Mizzima’s reporting has become a must-read for updates about the situation on the ground. Check it out.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Eric Hirsch is a Columbia Journalism Review intern.