Unmuzzling Myanmar: Guerrilla news gathering from the frontline

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Downman, Scott
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Trevor Cullen
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Perth, Australia

Digital technology has given people the opportunity to have a voice and to express themselves in new and effective ways. This has had important ramifications for those living in nations ruled by oppressive regimes, such as Myanmar. This paper will examine the role media technology has played in exposing the atrocities, injustices and secretive activities of Myanmar's paranoid military junta by looking at three examples of how guerrilla news gatherers have plied their craft in a bid to bring about change within their nation. Until recently in Myanmar, disasters such as the catastrophic cyclone Nargis, pro-democracy crackdowns and the ongoing forced exploitation of ethnic minorities would have occurred unreported and hidden from the outside world. But these events have now received global attention thanks to the use of digital technology, social networking sites and groups of independent guerrilla news gatherers who use digital images and eyewitness reports to document stories from the frontline. Most of these guerrilla news gatherers are not trained journalists but rather socially and politically-aware citizens with an understanding of the power of the media in bringing about change, but more importantly attempting to accurately report history as it occurs. These guerrilla news gatherers use a variety of equipment, from mobile phones with image capturing technology; to sophisticated digital technology attached to satellite phones. However, most of the information is leaked either from Internet cafes in Yangon, Myanmar's former capital, or smuggled illegally across the porous borders between Myanmar and Thailand. The research for this paper has been collected during fieldwork in the Mekong Sub-Region during the past three years, two of which were spent as a full-time community development worker, in a project working with Burmese refugees in Thailand.

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Journalism Education in the digital age: Sharing strategies and experiences (JEA 2009)
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© The Author(s) 2009. The attached file is posted here with permission of the copyright owner for your personal use only. No further distribution permitted. For information about this conference please refer to the publisher's website or contact the author.
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Journalism Studies
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