Burmese videojournalists face high risks in covering the forthcoming election

Aye Chan Naing

Oslo, Norway, 23rd April 2010:  Television coverage of the forthcoming election in Burma - expected to take place possibly in October – is likely to be very different to former ones, thanks to new technology.

Even though the Burmese authorities will impose tough restrictions on the media – possibly banning foreign TV crews altogether – it’s quite likely that international broadcasters will be able to do ‘live’ interviews with Burmese journalists located in different parts of the country.

The plan is being conceived by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a non-profit professional media organisation that transmits daily programming into Burma from its offices in Norway. DVB has recently invested in a Quicklink IP newsgathering system which will enable its 30 journalists inside Burma to send live and edited reports to the outside world.

DVB’s chief editor, Aye Chan Naing, told TVZ.tv: “We are training our journalists how to use the Quicklink technology and how to conduct live interviews with international broadcasters who want reports from inside Burma during the election.”

The Quicklink system works over any IP network including satellite systems such as Inmarsat and Thuraya, as well as the internet.

Aye Chan explained: “Coverage of the election will be a tough job and the authorities will try to control it completely. They could shut down the whole internet network in the country, as well as the telephone system. But they won’t stop us. With satellite phone connections and satellite internet connections, video reports will get out. It will be impossible for the authorities to control.”

DVB will be offering international broadcasters live interviews with its journalists, as well as offering to sell the news video reports they’ll be receiving via FTP on a daily basis from around the country.

At the moment DVB generates two hours of new programming every day, about 30% of which consists of news reports sent by its journalists from inside Burma. Delivery is usually via the internet, hand-carried cassette or – when deadlines are tight – via the Inmarsat satellite network. Aye Chan said, “Due to the costs, we only use satellite when we need footage urgently.”

The newsgathering operation in Burma carries huge risks for the journalists. Two of them were jailed last year and will serve prison terms of 27 years and 15 years.

“It’s very dangerous for them,” said Aye Chan. “You are allowed to film in Burma but it’s illegal to work for DVB so our journalists have to be very careful. If they’re caught filming, someone from the authorities is likely to ask them ‘What are you doing?’. So - long before they even start filming - they have to prepare a good excuse if they’re stopped, and decide how they could escape.”

To contact Aye Chan, emails can be sent to acn@dvb.no

Democratic Voice of Burma: www.dvb.no

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