Images of Burmese monks protesting their country’s military dictatorship reverberated around the world this week. But with foreign journalists banned from the country and government censors working overtime, information has come increasingly at a premium. Exiled Burmese editor Sein Win explains how he’s getting, and checking, the story.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Another story journalists are reporting from a distance is unrest in Burma. Burma is closed to foreign reporters, and as Buddhist monks take to the street to protest nearly 20 years of military rule, The Post, like many other news outlets, have based reporters in Thailand, to catch whatever news slips past the filtered cell phones, emails and blogs.
Sein Win is a Burmese exile and the managing editor of the Mizzima News, a web based news service in Bangkok. His site has seen an explosion in users from the exile community, eager for information and images of the pro democracy demonstrations back home. SEIN WIN: So they want to know. They are so excited they think something big will happen in near future. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you have any way to check the accuracy of what you're reporting? SEIN WIN: Yes. I want to get information from an email, I have to check with the telephone to call and I check with the neighbors, so that I can verify. BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's amazing. So you get a report from somebody, you have to call around the area to make sure — SEIN WIN: Yes. BROOKE GLADSTONE: — that report is true. That must be enormously difficult. SEIN WIN: Sure. [LAUGHS] Very, very difficult. Sometimes we have to dial more than 20 numbers, you know, like a random call, and I have to check the Yellow Pages and look for the phone number to the nearest place of a demonstration, so that I can ask, have you seen this?
Some people don't know, or there's some people, and they cannot answer clearly. So it is very, very hard but we have to do it. We don't have time. We don't have other offices. We have to do. BROOKE GLADSTONE: You're an exiled Burmese journalist. Do you feel that sense of hope, or are you more skeptical? SEIN WIN: I'm a Burmese and wherever I live, in my mind, I stay inside Burma. BROOKE GLADSTONE: No matter where you live, in your mind you're always in Burma. How long since — SEIN WIN: Definitely. BROOKE GLADSTONE: — you've really been in Burma? SEIN WIN: I left Burma seven years ago. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Do you expect you'll be going back soon? SEIN WIN: I hope so. Every night I think I will go back tomorrow. I will have a chance to go tomorrow. BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's been a pleasure talking to you, Mr. Win. Thank you so much. SEIN WIN: Okay, thank you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Sein Win is the managing editor of Mizzima News.