Sep 27, 2007

Democratic Voice of Burma - Truth as Propaganda Enough

Sometimes the truth is destabilizing propaganda enough. Sometimes.

The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) was launched in 1992 by a group of Burmese students in Europe after an election in which the opposition win was nullified by the country's ruling military junta. Initially only supported and funded by the Norwegian government, DVB now receives funding from Worldview Rights in Norway, National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, and the Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute (as part of The Burma Project).

Station manager Khin Maung Win estimates that some 75 % of international news reports about Burma originate from stories and sources developed by the station and its clandestine network of reporters inside of Burma.

Of course there are weightier matters at play than mere freedom agendas, especially when both Soros and the NED are found teaming up - but let's just keep this narrative tight and clean and instead let a jacked and hacked BBC weigh in where I just wavered off:

While the editorial team sits in safety in Oslo, television journalists on the ground risk arrest by secretly filming footage inside Burma, and smuggling the tapes to a neighbouring country.

News editor Moe Aye talks regularly on the telephone to his secret contacts in Burma.

Having established the line, he spends some minutes making sure it is safe, and that the contact cannot be overheard.

The contacts "really want to inform and let us know what is happening inside Burma," explained Mr Moe. "On the other hand they're really concerned about their lives and their security."

The Democratic Voice of Burma says its television programmes are an important part of the non-violent fight in support of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

She was banned by the military from travelling to Oslo to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

The Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranks Burma third worst for media freedom, after North Korea and Cuba.

Its Burma expert, Vincent Brossel, welcomes the new TV station, and hopes people will risk watching it.

"There is a law against satellite transmission, and you can go to jail if you have a parabole [satellite dish] without a licence," he told the BBC News website.

"But we know now so many people have paraboles and can watch this TV programme. People inside can understand that outside the Burmese are also fighting for democracy.

"A friend told me that recently in Bassein, outside Rangoon, the electricity was cut off when the DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] programme started. So it means the authorities are afraid of the DVB TV influence."

But back at the television station, editor Khin Maung Win is not worried that the military will stop the programme. He thinks the generals themselves will tune in.

"At the beginning they jammed our radio, but later on they became our regular audience, because they wanted to get real information, even about their own country," he said.

"They cannot rely on reports from their subordinates. So they have to listen to our radio to get real information, or to measure the feeling of the grassroot people. We believe that will happen with television also."

For now Democratic Voice of Burma TV broadcasts two hours of news and educational programmes weekly. [That's been recently ramped up to 9 hours/day due to the crisis at hand -M1]

It wants to expand to become a daily source of television news for viewers inside Burma.

And as long as the media situation remains unchanged, the station will continue to broadcast from far-away Norway.

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