This piece was written by Ole Chavannes on the website of Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) on the 26th of April, 2023.
“Harsh and tyrannical laws are worse even than a fierce tiger”, wrote Confucius around the year 500 BC in the The Book of Rites. The Chinese philosopher and politician was forced by a neighboring governor – who became jealous of his success and plotted his overthrow – into exile for 13 years.
The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) has been forced into exile twice. First as a result of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising (DVB was founded in Norway in 1992) and again in early 2021 when outlawed by the current military junta. In those 30-plus years, DVB kept transmitting the news for all people in Burma. In times of violent repression, news can save lives.
Reporting the news inside a country where the state hunts down journalists is extremely complicated. How it is done is professional secrecy, but it is no secret how dangerous it is. Currently 37 media professionals are in jail, among them two DVB reporters. Burma’s generals fear the truth. That dictators hate free speech is not new. Throughout world history repressive elites have tried to control the thoughts of people. But in the end, the truth will be revealed. Mostly by historians, but much quicker by journalists.
Uncovering facts in the middle of a battlefield is extremely difficult. Especially with footage being uploaded by unverified sources and shared across all social media platforms, the spread of false narratives and fake news increases. Trustworthy news is key, but requires thorough fact checking by professional independent journalists, before any event can be reported as news or not. Sometimes that takes hours, sometimes days. That seems incredibly long in today’s 24-hour news cycle.
Reporting with one foot in and one foot out of Burma requires a specific skill set, based on years of experience combined with the latest innovations. These skills are not unique. The fight for media freedom is an international one. There are many regimes around the world that force journalists and media to seek sanctuary across borders, and they fight back by reporting from exile. Each local context is different, but many dynamics and practical problems are the same. But how many of these journalists in exile are connected with fellow fighters for press freedom?
This is why DVB is honored to be one of the founding members of the Network of Exiled Media Outlets (NEMO). Together with our global exiled colleagues that have loyally served their audiences for years with independent news from Nicaragua, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia. We collaborate because we want to exchange expertise, knowing by supporting each other, we will be better prepared for what could come next.
NEMO was officially launched during the International Journalism Festival 2023 in Perugia, Italy on April 22. The presentation room was packed with media experts and many enthusiastic reactions followed the announcement. NEMO marked its launch with The Exiled Media Podcast, a series of five episodes featuring voices from exile media outlets across the globe, sharing their successes and challenges. Because we believe knowledge is power and exiled media are more powerful when united.
Ole Chavannes is the DVB media developer.