Amidst the euphoria of citizen journalism content demonstrating to the world the brutality of the military junta in Myanmar and why, just as in 1988, this repressive regime through sheer terror and outright murder hold its grip on power, Dan Gillmor expresses a word of caution:
The questions of reliability and trust will be paramount in what’s coming out of Burma, Net or no Net. We are distinctly inclined to trust what we see from on-the-ground observers in cases such as this, where the regime is so odious that it’s tempting to believe it would commit any atrocity to preserve its power. We need to exercise some caution, and we need to sort out the reliable observers from the ones who will certainly use turmoil to push specific agendas. (Note: I am not pointing at anything in this case, just observing that it’s something to watch for.)
And even though the military seems to have cut off internet access, the stories, images and videos seem to be getting out. Other notable stories in this regard are:
A day to day account of the situation in Myanmar from the BBC including photos submitted by readers.
Burma’s cyber-dissidents, also from BBC
Ko Htike’s blog
Protests in Myanmar and Mobile Phones
Democratic Voice of Burma
I’ve also written on how the Internet and web can be strategically used to challenge repressive regimes and encourage readers to pick up a copy of Open Networks, Closed Regimes: The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Rule, contends that the Internet is not necessarily a threat to authoritarian regimes.
This is a sobering thought and is perhaps one reason why, even though the grotesque suppression of democratic dissent in Myanmar is plastered on websites, the military junta will continue to rule, even though their power will inexorably wane over time, requiring in the meanwhile even more violence to keep dissent in check. An indelible and damning digital record of the military rule is now on the web and will hopefully galvanise sustained international action to overthrow the military and restore civilian rule.