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The release of Aung San Suu Kyi

I’ll be honest, I was caught up in the euphoria as Aung San Suu Kyi took her first steps of freedom in over seven years just before 11am on Saturday morning UK time.But 48 hours later and what does the pro-democracy leader of Burma’s release really mean?In the cold light of day, it’s time to take a step back and to remember – as we said in our press release issued moments after the news broke – she’s just one person. There are still at least 2,200 political prisoners in Burma. One person’s freedom does not mean everything is suddenly rosy. The world should not be fooled. Burma remains a country with an iron grip on the media, a brutal attitude to dissent, and where child labour and torture remain commonplace.Her release, and the build-up to it, marked a hectic few days for us in the media team.We knew her release was possible – her house arrest was due to expire on Saturday – but with the Burmese military junta nothing is certain. Needless to say in an attempt to be prepared we did a pre-record for Radio 5 late on Friday, and our Burma Campaign Manager Verity Coyle was on BBC Breakfast at 6.10am and 7.40am on Saturday.With Amnesty’s HQ full thanks to Student Conference, news of her release broke in the office with a scream from Amnesty’s normally calm Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict. And then to be honest it was all hands to the pumps.Off went the press release, calls went out to the Press Association and Sky News Radio – the outlet that feeds all commercial radio stations in the UK.By 11.10am, Verity was on radio. Minutes later she was live on Sky News TV on the telephone.By 11.38am, the Press Association story with Amnesty’s line from the Secretary General was on The Independent’s website. The other main newspapers followed soon after.By 12.18pm, it was on the BBC and 24 minutes later Channel 4.And while all this was going on, Verity had jumped in a cab and was negotiating the traffic caused by the Lord Mayor’s Show to head to Millibank for a round of further TV interviews – live on BBC, and live on Sky again, before pre-records for Channel 4 and ITN. Verity’s comments made the lead item on the Six O’Clock news.Numerous other radio interviews followed, with Amnesty’s Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan taking time out of their regional conference to do five interviews.The Sunday papers were again awash with coverage, with the Mail on Sunday among those quoting Amnesty.We then took advantage of the presence of Nant Bwa Bwa Phan from the Karen National Union – here for the Student Conference – to hold a press conference. She told how a majority of Burmese people do not even know who Aung San Suu Kyi is, thanks to the massive censorship of the media.And with the BBC and the Press Association among those present, her comments made it into a range of this morning’s newspapers, including notably the Scotsman and the Daily Record.Then it was Sky News Radio again and Newshour on the BBC World Service.But it didn’t stop there. We re-launched our Radio for Burma project with a further press release, calling for people to buy a radio for Burma so that people throughout the country can actually get the chance to hear Aung San Suu Kyi for themselves. That appeared in full in all of the Metro’s editions up and down the country.And finally, there was a call for people to attend Another Joke Too Far – Stand Up for Burma, a comedy event being held on Tuesday 23 November in Brick Lane. It all capped off a remarkable weekend, that also saw the release of the Chandlers from their Somalian captors, the Cuban dissident Arnaldo Ramos, 10 aid workers from a cargo ship, and Abdul Khaliq Farahi, Afghanistan’s former ambassador-designate to Pakistan who was seized two years ago in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.Now all we need is 2,200 political prisoners to be released in Burma…

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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