Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Myanmar: Freedom of speech? Freedom of the press?

No surprise, there's little freedom of speech in Myanmar. Huyen and I arrived the day after Suu Kyi was sentenced and you wouldn't have even known she existed. Nobody once mentioned her name. Her face did not appear on television and as far as I could tell there was no newspaper reports about her either. I'm guessing about the newspaper because I never once saw anyone reading a newspaper. In fact, Huyen and I passed a newspaper office in the heart of Yangon on a weekday and this is what it looked like:
(PICTURE: The New Light Of Myanmar...which looks like it hasn't had any lights on inside for years.)

As far as television goes, there was little to no news on the TV. There were only a few channels on the TV in our hotel room and from what I could tell it wasn't hard journalism.

Only one time did a local say anything at all political to us. A taxi driver said one morning, "A big American general is meeting our government today." The big general turned out to be Senator Webb (a highly decorated Vietnam War vet and Reagan's former Secretary of the Navy...and one of my favorite senators). Perhaps to all Myanmar people all politicians must be generals.

Furthermore almost every website I regularly check was blocked in Myanmar. There was a sign at one internet cafe that said, "No Political or Adult Websites." As if politicals and porn deserve to be equally banned. Thank goodness for the First Amendment.