Burma VJ: Human Rights Activism at Its FinestAugust 6, 2010
UPDATE: Check out Amnesty’s brand new action page on Myanmar: Stand with the People of Myanmar. Demand they be given the three freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Also, show your support on twitter by start using #3freedoms
This is the first post of our human rights film series.
August 8, 2010, marks 22 years since Myanmar’s massive crackdown against student protesters, resulting in the deaths of 3,000 and the detention of countless opponents of the military junta. Although 8/8/88 remains a disheartening defeat, it also continues to symbolize the hope for change.
Similarly, in 2007, citizens took to the streets again to wage anti-government protests. However, this time, the demonstrations were led by thousands of monks, heralding the movement as the “Saffron Revolution” due to the color their robes. Within weeks, the military brutally squashed the peaceful protests, evoking international condemnation and outcry.
That outcry was only made possible by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), a non-profit media organization based in Norway, which filmed the events with hand cameras and smuggled the footage out of the country for international broadcasting. They communicated to the world the tense atmosphere, desire for basic human rights and desperate hope that Myanmar experienced in August and September 2007. The reporters of DVB took great personal risk to give the international community unprecedented access to the political and social atmosphere in Myanmar.
Cameras vs. Guns
Yesterday, I finally got a chance to watch Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country, an Academy Award nominated documentary created from the footage captured by the Democratic Voice of Burma during the “Saffron Revolution.” The documentary is incredibly powerful and inspiring; Burma VJ highlights more than the overwhelming human rights abuses present in Myanmar by emphasizing the everyday devotion to freedom as well as the great personal risks that ordinary citizens assume to record political events. While emotionally poignant and insightful, Burma VJ also chronicles the challenging footsteps of video journalists in Myanmar in their quest to capture the truth. The desperate expectation for change is evident in the documentary and reminiscent of the political and social environment of August 8, 1988.
To catch a glimpse of daily life in Myanmar and view human rights activism and advocacy at its finest, watch Burma VJ. The documentary, produced by Anders Østergaard, was just released on DVD in the United States, so update your Netflix queue, sit back and get ready for some serious human rights activism!
Elections Later This Year
Myanmar, a country internationally criticized for its poor human rights record, is slated to hold elections later this year. However, a specific date has not been determined although the Election Laws enacted in March 2010 as well as directives by the Election Commission in June 2010 have already further curtailed the three freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi continues to suffer under house arrest after winning general elections in 1990, a fact ignored by Myanmar’s regime. Unless the international community urgently pays attention to essential human rights protection in the run-up to the elections (Yes, I am talking to you, ASEAN!), people will continue to be denied their essential freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and yet another opportunity for a positive human rights impact will be lost.
In the run up to the elections later this year, we will closely monitor the situation in Myanmar and provide you with opportunities to express you demand for human rights in Myanmar – something that is denied to ordinary citizens in Myanmar. Stay tuned for regular updates at this blog or follow us on Twitter. To get started, raise awareness about the human rights situation in Myanmar during the lead up to the election and tweet #3Freedoms, #Burma, or #Myanmar this Sunday—August 8, 2010—in order to commemorate 8/8/88.