The blank blogs of Burma ~ theatre notes

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The blank blogs of Burma

Anyone who feels sanguine about the possible freedoms of new media should contemplate the blank blogs of Burma. As the military cracks down on the popular protests against the Burmese regime, many of the student blogs that have opened a window on this repressive junta have gone mysteriously blank.

I once worked with a South African journalist who worked for a newspaper at the height of Apartheid censorship. He told me that when stories were suppressed by the authorities, the editors began to leave the front page blank. This, he told me, became a form of resistance in itself, a sign of censorship. In the end, the regime banned blank front pages. So while they're still there in their nakedness, you should take a look at Justice and Injustice (which when I checked it, still carried photographs and text, albeit untranslated Burmese), Moezack and Kohtike. And check out Burma Gateway, the Australian site that carries news of protests against the Burmese government.


Bardassa said...

I have flashbacks to Rawanda and Bosnia - we can all watch in outrage and horror as it happens while the UN have pointless meetings. The outcome will be that lotsa people will killed and hurt and the generals will stash Burma's wealth into their various hidden bank accounts and if it looks like they may be brought to justice will vamoose to the August Pinochet Memorial Resort for Ruthless Dictors and live happily ever after.

China bankroll Burma and we should boycotting the 2008 Olympics until China takes a stand against that regime.

Grrrrrrrr I hate being powerless, it makes me feel so inadequate.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alison,there is still some stuff getting out via internet. Amazingly the junta have only slowed it rather than stopped it but word is that may change at any time. This guy is blogging from Thailand but is getting some connection to people in the country:
Also, and Irrawaddy(run by Burmese in exile in Thailand) are running updates every half-hour.
Yes Bardassa I know how you feel.Bush's mealy-mouthed sanctions(a visa restriction on the generals no less)and disingenuous rhetoric about human rights are pathetic enough but Downer for fear of upsetting the Chinese is even worse.For what its worth he's got my email.And yes the Olympics provide some obvious leverage but global awareness of whats happening needs to be much greater for that to be on the cards.
The demonstrators are doing a brilliant job of getting the images out at present but the crackdown isnt in full swing.Its times like this I wish I had religious beliefs so I could at least say I'm praying for them...

sydney arts journo said...

Thanks for posting this Alison... the images coming out of Burma are absolutely surreal.
I have found, like Eileen, that there are still a lot of bloggers getting info out through their colleagues via email and continuing to get the information out there. Indeed, many are speculating that if the bloggers hadn't smuggled the info out, that the international pressure may not have happened.
The junta have blocked access to blogger and other blog websites... but the independent dissent still pops out of the cracks. Amazing stuff.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Alison, Thanks for sharing.

I had a very rare opportunity to visit Burma 11 years ago. I was struck by how vital its Buddhist monks were within the society almost in spite of the despotic rule. I've been hoping apparently beyond hope that their peaceful protest would reinvigorate resistance to the ruling junta. But I've been saddened by news of the illegal government's crackdown.

Whether those blogs are blank as a sign of protest, or more likely due to the junta pulling the plug, it is a sad day for the Burmese people. Thanks again for sharing.

Alison Croggon said...

Apparently the Burmese authorities have cut internet bandwidth radically, making access all but impossible.

The access the internet offers is brilliant, and means we have access to much more information than was possible before; but because it's dependent on servers, all a government has to do is to control the servers. As in the controls in China say or the Russian Government's shutting down or cyber attacks on human rights websites about Chechnya.

alexf said...

as i understood it, the blogger servers were in the USofA which ought to make them despotic ruler proof, no? They can block can block access to the internet but they should not be able to remove content

Alison Croggon said...

I'm assuming the bloggers removed their own content. And assuming that was done under pressure, fear of reprisals or identification or perhaps actual arrest. I may be wrong of course, but it seems most likely. The Chechnya websites are US, but are hacked from Russia - domains stolen, denial of service attacks and so on.

Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Alison, There's a very interesting, timely report from CNN on the blogging from Burma. Thought you'd want to see.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask you for a favor, to talk about and post the new campaign if it is not too much trouble for you.

We created this site because we wanted a space where normal people could show that although the media spotlight over Burma may have dimmed, we are still thinking of Burma.

The team that runs this site came together through the "Support the Monks' Protest in Burma " Facebook group (439,000 members) and has created the website .

We're a team of activists from around the world that work around the clock on our sites, we were key to coordinating the Global Day of Action for Burma on October 6th 2007 and Aung Sang Suu Kyi day (October 24th 2007).

We'd like to thank our launch partners who have helped make this project work., they are: Burma Campaign UK, The US Campaign for Burma,, the European Burma Network and .

About Burma

Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal military dictatorships in the world; a dictatorship charged by the United Nations with a "crime against humanity" for its systematic abuses of human rights, and condemned internationally for refusing to transfer power to the legally elected Government of the country – the party led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

In September 2007 monks led thousands of peaceful protestors onto the streets of Burma. The Burmese military put this peaceful uprising down with ruthless brutality routinely using violence and torture against the protestors, even the monks. The people of Burma have lived under military dictatorship for 45 years. The last peaceful uprising that occurred in1988 was brutally put down by the army killing at least 3,000 people. However the West didn't act because very little news came out of Burma. This time is different, we know people have been tortured, we know hundreds and possibly thousands of people have been murdered by the regime in an attempt to put down the uprising.

To make sure the world doesn't forget get active, submit a photo of support to this site, join the Facebook group and find a local activist organisation via

Sophie Lwin