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Home » Independence Issue, News

Censored Burma

Submitted by on February 6, 2011 – 1:09 pmNo Comment

A flyer illustrating Burma's oppression.

As Western nations learn more about Burma, modern technology is making it easier for the Burmese people to learn about their nation.The future of Burma is uncertain. The country has been under the intense watch of the international media of late, with their controversial elections and the release of the dissident National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from her latest spell of house detention.

Eighteen months ago, before Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest period of house arrest, mobile phones were uncommon and she has not yet used the internet. Her main source of information during house arrest was the radio. Technological advancements like the internet mean more Burmese people can access the information they want and need, and can communicate it with others much more easily.

A 3rd year Burmese and Development student at SOAS University London, who did not want to be named, said: “A huge source of information for people in Burma, especially the younger generation, is from people’s blogs. People spread information about what is actually going on in the country and what they feel about what is happening.”

“Facebook is actually huge out there which I found weird. Considering China has banned Facebook, the Burmese Government hasn’t seemed to clock on to the fact that people are communicating and sharing opinions via their status. Individuals create space for freedom within the country.”

To gain access to the internet at home, a Burmese citizen must make an application to the government. Considering this and the fact that all official press is government-owned and the rest is tightly regulated, it has been hard for people within Burma to access uncensored information.Before the internet, radio was virtually the only source of free knowledge. The BBC World service has a department that broadcasts directly into Burma, providing the people with a source of information they can trust.

Amnesty International said in a recent video promoting their Radios for Burma campaign: “Tuning into radio broadcasts is one of the only ways for people to access uncensored independent information, free from state control.”

In the run up to the November election, the internet in Burma slowed to a halt. Burma’s Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPT) controls a large quantity of the internet connection throughout the country. Speaking on Burma’s Irrawady News website, a source close to the ministry said that internet access was normal at all governmental and military institutions serviced by MPT but access for business and internet cafes was shut down to control the flow of information in and out of the country.

Around 1.3 million people in Burma have use of a mobile phone; only 4% of the 54 million population, MPT stated. A mobile phone in Burma will cost the average citizen around eight years wages. The Burmese press ranked fifth lowest in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2010.

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