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Blogger's Who Risked All

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://tinyurl.com/3de5p5 The Times October 1, 2007 Bloggers who risked all to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2007
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      The Times
      October 1, 2007
      Bloggers who risked all to reveal the junta’s brutal crackdown in Burma
      Young men from Myanmar who helped to inform the rest of the World
      through their blogs
      by Kenneth Denby in Rangoon

      Internet geeks share a common style, and Ko Latt and his four friends
      would not be out of place in cyber cafés across the world. They have the
      skinny arms and the long hair, the dark T-shirts and the jokey
      nicknames. But few such figures have ever taken the risks that they have
      in the past few weeks, or achieved so much in a noble and dangerous cause.

      Since last month Ko Latt, 28, his friends Arca, Eye, Sun and Superman,
      and scores of others like them have been the third pillar of Burma’s
      Saffron Revolution. While the veteran democracy activists, and then the
      Buddhist monks, marched in their tens of thousands against the military
      regime, it is the country’s amateur bloggers and internet enthusiasts
      who have brought the images to the outside world.

      Armed with small digital cameras, they have documented the spectacular
      growth of the demonstrations from crowds of a few hundred to as many as
      100,000. On weblogs they have recorded in words and pictures the
      regime’s bloody crackdown, in a city where only a handful of foreign
      journalists work undercover. With downloaded software, they have dodged
      and weaved around the regime’s increasingly desperate attempts to thwart
      their work. Now the bloggers, too, have been crushed. Having failed to
      stop the cyber-dissidents broadcasting to the world, the authorities
      have simply switched off the internet.

      Now Ko Latt and his blogging comrades have abandoned their keyboards and
      gone underground, sleeping in a different place every night, watching
      and waiting to see if the democracy movement has been truly crushed or
      is simply on hold. “When things were hot on the streets, we were not the
      main worry,” Ko Latt says. “But as the situation cools down, they will
      follow us. They know who we are, they know we are bloggers, and I am

      Even in normal times it was hard to be a blogger in Burma. With
      characteristic paranoia, the Government monitored and controlled every
      aspect of the process, from licensing computers to issuing accounts
      through government-monitored internet service providers (ISPs). This is
      what makes political blogging so dangerous here — it is easy for
      military intelligence to identify a dissident’s name and address through
      his registered account.

      Nonetheless, Rangoon and Mandalay, the two biggest cities, have
      undergone a boom in internet cafés and blogs, although initially they
      were uncontroversial. “I wanted to say something to other people, about
      my life and the news, and articles that interest me,” says Superman, who
      has been blogging for a year. “That’s why I like blogging — it’s another
      life for me on the internet.”

      Then last month came sudden, devastating rises in the price of fuel oil
      and everyday goods, and the early, relatively small demonstrations that
      followed soon after. Around this time many of them realised, as Superman
      says: “Everything is bloggable.”

      The realities of political oppression made life difficult. A blogger who
      posted a photograph of a demonstration found herself arrested,
      questioned and her computer seized.

      On domestic blogs, they were able to express themselves only indirectly.
      The blogger nicknamed Sun, for example, posted quotations from a famous
      Burmese memoir of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War,
      full of observations about how to live with dignity under a brutal regime.

      “Everyone knows what it’s really about,” a Burmese editor says.

      “They’re making a comment about what’s happening now, about the cruelty
      and brutality of our rulers.” Even these subtle commentaries attracted
      great interest. The average number of daily hits went from 100 to more
      than 1,000 in a few days.

      The best material -- the digital pictures and videos of marching monks,
      the charging soldiers and their flailing batons -- was sent outside the

      One exiled blogger in particular -- Ko Htike, said to be a student in
      London -- has attracted intense interest and received many photographs
      and witness accounts that he posts on his site,
      http://www.ko-htike.blogspot.com .

      Pointing cameras at the charging soldiers is a potentially lethal
      undertaking -- last Thursday Kenji Nagai, a Japanese photographer, was
      shot dead. And then there is the job of sending files down laboriously
      slow internet connections. Free online software helped -- such as SEND6,
      which compresses huge video and picture files into manageable packets,
      and Your Freedom, which enables internet users to get around the
      regime’s blocks and firewalls.

      The regime responded, first by blocking individual Burmese blogs, then,
      last Wednesday, by blocking all of them. But the overseas sites were
      beyond its reach, so on Friday it switched off the internet altogether.
      Now e-mails can be sent only within Burma; the only pages that web
      browsers can view are those of the official websites.

      The only solution now would be to dial up ISPs overseas but the cost of
      international calls makes this prohibitive. As Superman puts it: “Now
      Burma is like the Stone Age.”

      The bloggers held out as long as they could, and if there is ever a
      monument to the heroes of the Saffron Revolution it should certainly
      feature a statue of a skinny boy in a T-shirt and thick glasses hunched
      over a computer and a digital camera.

      Dan Clore

      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "Don't just question authority,
      Don't forget to question me."
      -- Jello Biafra
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