Remember, remember the 7th of November

As regular readers of this blog no doubt you will, but lest we forget, this coming Sunday Burma will hold its first election in 20 years.  

It doesn’t take a psychic octopus (which is just as well) to predict the outcome of this race. With 25% of electoral seats reserved for the military, and military-endorsed candidates running in every possible parliamentary region, there are unlikely to be any big surprises. Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition NLD party decided they would not run as they saw no realistic possibility of democracy. The 2,200 jailed political prisoners remain behind bars their dissent silenced. There seems to be a consensus that this will merely be a change of uniform rather than substance. Burmese citizens interviewed have relayed their dismay, describing the generals, variously as “wolves in sheep skins” and my personal favorite, the dismissive prediction that following the election, it will be a case of “same water, new cup”. And what a cup, see here for BBC pictures of the new parliamentary village. 

There has been a lot of media coverage internationally on Burma this week. Very impressive, given that the country’s government has banned “foreign” journalists from covering the elections, as well as declaring that they would not admit impartial observers. The BBC reported on the state-sanctioned newspaper, which runs with a regular disclaimer, saying: “BBC sowing hatred among the people…do not allow ourselves to be swayed by killer broadcasters designed to cause troubles.” Interesting and somewhat satisfying that the BBC have managed to get into the country and film the headline.   

Sky News were covertly in the East of the country yesterday, and reporting live from the Karenni community with whom they were staying. Depressingly though, none of this coverage will be available to the Burmese people. 

That is why Amnesty is expanding its campaign to bring more freedom of expression, association and assembly to the people of Burma by providing free radios to communities hungry for independent information about the realities in their country.

We are asking people to donate via www.amnesty.org.uk/radios so that we can buy as many radios as possible, which will be distributed to people who will benefit from this most simple yet useful of communication tools

Despite the severe restrictions placed on access to information in Burma, media organisations in exile are able to broadcast directly into the country. These broadcasts are a vital source of independent information for people. This Sunday, I’ll be glued to the DVB for uncensored information about life in the country and views on the elections. Thanks to the first successful wave of the project, so will thousands of people in Burma, as well.

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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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