Media turns to bloggers for news from Burma

San Francisco Chronicle:

Dodging a deadly military crackdown that has killed at least nine protesters, Burmese bloggers are on the front lines, providing news and photos of death and insurrection.

Their Internet blogs, written in Burmese and grammatically flawed English, are posted mostly by residents of Rangoon, the commercial port also known as Yangon, where Buddhist monks, pro-democracy activists and residents have been defying security forces for more than a week.

The bloggers rely on word-of-mouth, cell phones, online chat groups, instant messaging, and firsthand accounts of protesters facing barricaded streets, tear gas and gunfire from Burmese security forces. The best blogs provide photos, video and text updates purportedly by eyewitnesses, which are later confirmed by news organizations or, in some cases, can't be verified.

The nation's military regime has refused to grant visas to foreign correspondents, and has even blocked visa requests for many foreign tourists after the mass uprising worsened this week.

As a result, blogger accounts have captivated the outside world, including President Bush and the United Nations. On Thursday, the Bush administration imposed economic sanctions against 14 senior Burmese officials. On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement of concern about the violent crackdown and said it would send a special envoy to Burma.

Burmese and foreign bloggers in Rangoon, Mandalay, the nation's second-largest city, and elsewhere have risked their lives to document the pro-democracy demonstrations, which began over a fuel price hike in August.

One poignant blog, by a young Burmese woman who identifies herself as Dawn, appears at www.xanga.com/dawn_1o9.

"Around 1:20 or 1:30 p.m., I heard someone saying that the police/army started shooting in the air," Dawn wrote, describing Rangoon on Wednesday.

"At 2:00 p.m., I heard that buses have stopped running on Sule Pagoda Road. Someone from the office went out there, and came running back when there were shots being fired.

"I heard the gun shots too, but it sounded a lot like clapping. So I went out to look.

"I was reading the news on a blogger's Cbox, and it said that at least 5 monks were dead at Shwedagon Pagoda. My sis had already called home and told my brother not to go to work. I called home too, and also to my father. He told me to stay at work and not to go out."

...

There is much more with links to other Burma bloggers. It is not clear how much longer they will be able to communicate with the world. CNN reports that the government cut the internet link to Burma. The network appears to be getting much of its news from diplomats in Burma. their reports are not encouraging. The despots appear to be willing to kill to thwart democracy.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the citizen journalist who are helping to get the news out with YouTube, cellphone cameras and text messaging. The junta has not figured out a way to shut off the cell pones yet, so the word keeps slipping out.

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