Thursday, October 4, 2007

Burmese Junta pulls the plug on Cyber-Revolution

Silencing the protestors used to be easy: intimidation was all it took, just a shaking of the iron fist. And if it shields itself from the prying eyes of other countries, a hermit nation like Myanmar can oppress its people with impunity. To counter the biggest Burmese popular uprising in the past 20 years, when monks in blood-red robes took to the streets, the military junta finally got to grips with the 21st century and pulled the plug on the country's two internet servers and all mobile phone networks to silence the festering dissidence. The mobile video phone is the subversive which just may prove mightier than the sword. But, writes Seth Mydans in the IHT, the digital age brought new power to ordinary people:
a guerrilla army of citizen reporters was transmitting videos, photographs and news reports over the Internet even as events were unfolding.
The old technology of guns and clubs had been ensnared by the immediacy of electronic communication in a way the world had never seen.....
They sent SMS text messages and e-mails and posted daily blogs, according to some of the exile groups that received their messages. They posted notices on Facebook, the online social networking Web site. They sent tiny messages on e-cards. They updated the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

They also used Internet versions of "pigeons" - the couriers reporters used in the past to carry out film and news - handing their material to embassies or nongovernmental organizations that had access to satellite connections.

Just as important, these images and reports were broadcast back into Myanmar by foreign radio and television stations, informing and connecting a public that receives only propaganda reports from its government.

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