Collaboration under censorship

On: October 15, 2007
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About Maarten van Sprang
Maarten has a Bachelor degree in Communication and Multimedia Design and is working for Humanique as an interaction designer. Right now he is also finishing his thesis on the New Media Master at the University of Amsterdam. He's is very interested in new media (obviously), gaming and music.

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Images courtesy of Business WeekIn response the feeble democratic situation in Myanmar, social activists, students and Buddhist monks gathered to stand up against the totalitarian regime of the Burmese government. The most important source for reports on the situation comes from the blogging community in Myanmar.

So perhaps it is not the demonstrations themselves that stirred up the international community, but the coverage fed by the local blogosphere. Local bloggers are trying to bypass the censorship filters, by using highly interpretive blog-posts:

全国僧侣、全国人民必须清醒地认识到,不坚决地制止这场动乱,将国无宁日。这场斗争事关缅甸振兴和国家建设的成败,事关国家民族的前途。

All the monks and the people shall realize that if we do not stop the unrest resolutely, there will be no peace in the country. This battle is concerned with the revitalization of Myanmar and the success of nation-building. It is vital to the future of the nation.

If the words Myanmar and Monks are replaced with China and Students the real underlying dimension of the message becomes clear. But as the government tightens their censorship control, bloggers have to find other techniques to get their message across. In an attempt to shut down the resistance community completely the government took the liberty of shutting down one of the major ISP’s, under the motto of ‘maintenance.’ All other communications sources are either shutdown, or heavily monitored.

In what seems to be a hopeless situation, support came from the international blogging community, in the form of a global support to bring back internet, and in the long run democracy, in Myanmar. Free-Burma now has over 14.000 subscribers who support the cause against the military regime.

The collaboration in this particular case is twofold, first is the local writers who express their concerns about their country and showing the world that the Burmese situation is a major problem. Their community is seen as a big threat by the government, as it shows in their reaction to filter and shut down the internet from keeping negative publicity coming out. But by doing that, they triggered the international blogging community to start writing about the case, and defending the Burmese bloggers. By trying to control, it just spiralled out of control for the government.

It might be speculative to say that the FreeBurma initiative had something do to with this, but as it turns out, Reuters just reported that internet accessibility is restored in Myanmar, it’s only a small step forward, but as shown above, the collaborative actions of an international crowd create a snowball effect that attracts worldwide attention.

FreeBurma Twitter feed

3 Responses to “Collaboration under censorship”
  • October 15, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    Nice post. Indeed speculative to say that the international blogging community is what persuaded the government (would be great if it were, though).
    Still, in the light of collaborative network, it is obvious that without a collective blogging from Myanmar local bloggers, the whole incident would not have had such an extreme media coverage. Although in essence very positive, this also raises the question if we are not ‘blinded’ by this ‘en masse’ media coverage.

  • October 15, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Maybe so, but when it concerns censorship and lack of democracy, it’s up to the global community to spread the cry for help, especially since the voices of the local bloggers are muffled. Just imagining if it would happen to our country makes me want to take action, and I think that is the motivation for the majority of the bloggers, because we are becoming more and more dependent of the medium we certainly don’t want it taken away from us.

  • October 18, 2007 at 1:03 am

    […] is heartening to read in the post Collaboration under Censorship that internet access has been restored in Burma […]

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