While we associate blogs and the World Wide Web with fun and learning, most of us have probably never thought of these tools as weapons in a war for freedom or as the last defense in a desperate attempt to let the rest of the world know of atrocities occuring in your country. When we lose our Internet connection, we are annoyed and inconvenienced. Imagine being cut off from the world and silenced if you lost your Internet access.
On Friday, the government of Myanmar cut off the nation’s Internet connection in an effort to stop citizens from emailing photos of violence against citizens who were protesting against the government. Until Friday, citizens literally risked their lives by emailing the photos to the world outside Myanmar. The “Internet blackout” also silenced bloggers who were posting information about military crackdown on protestors.
The importance of the blog in this fight for freedom is underscored in this excerpt from this September 28 CNN article:
Ko Htike is a 28-year-old who left Myanmar, once known as Burma, seven years ago to study in England. He told CNN.com a day earlier that he has as many as 40 people in Myanmar sending him photos or calling him with information. They often take the photos from windows from their homes, he said. Myanmar’s military junta has forbidden such images, and anyone who sends them is risking their lives. “If they get caught, you will never know their future. Maybe just disappear or maybe life in prison or maybe dead,” he told CNN. Why would they take such risks? “They thought that this is their duty for the country,” he said. “That’s why they are doing it. It’s like a mission.”Even with Friday’s action by the government, he said he will continue to do all he can to get images of what’s happening out for the world to see. “I will also try my best to feed in their demonic appetite of fear and paranoia by posting any pictures that I receive through other means,” he said on his blog. “I will continue to live with the motto that ‘if there is a will there is a way.’ With few Western journalists allowed in Myanmar, his blog has become one of the main information outlets. More than 170,000 people from 175 countries have gone to the blog, according to a counter on the page.
Why did the military based government perceive Internet access as a threat to its power? The September 29 issue of The Economist sums it up in a nutshell:
One genuine difference is that, in the age of the internet and digital cameras, images of the spectacular protests in Yangon, the main city, have spread at lightning speed across Myanmar itself, encouraging people in other towns to stage demonstrations of their own; and around the world, bringing the crisis to the attention of leaders as they gathered in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Have you ever thought of the importance of blogs and other World Wide Web based tools in today’s society? While many of us recognize these tools as an important means for sharing information, most of us have probably never thoughts of our blogs as a tool for civil disobedience or as a way of changing the world. How can we use blogs to make a difference? What do you think?
To learn more about the violence in Myanmar and the history of this country, check out these resources:
- September 29, 2007, Associated Press: Hope Wanes Among Protestors in Myanmar
- “Blogs Helping Expose Myanmar Horrors”, CNN, September 27, 2007
- 9/17 Time magazine article via GALE Opposing Viewpoints: “Burma on the Edge” (our GALE password is required)
- 9/29/07 The Economist article via GALE Student Resource Center Gold: “On the Brink: Myanmar’s Protests” (our GALE password is required)
- For current news articles, use the search time “Myanmar” and try these databases: Academic Search Complete (great for magazine and news articles) via GALILEO; Newspaper Source via GALILEO; MasterFile Premier via GALILEO (GALILEO password required off-campus)
- For more information on Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), try our GALE Virtual Reference Library.
- Who is Aung San Suu Kyi ? Search our GALE Virtual Reference Library for more information on this woman who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. You can also read more about her at the PBS Frontline site.
- Read this 9/30 firsthand account from Michael Pearson in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Free registration may be required to read this article.