New Light of Myanmar’s red herring

Superfluously entitled “DVB Broadcasting Station airs fabricated news titled ‘Hluttaw representatives of NLD and its members stage protest walk in Mandalay’ — Mandalay Division NLD makes fabricated news to save its reputation as there were no protests in Mandalay people comment that NLD should not make such attempts to mislead the people,” the New Light of Myanmar (NLM) tried to discredit the Democratic Voice for Burma and the National League for Democracy simultaneously.

The article, instead of focusing about what was actually newsworthy, emphasized the lack of a protest in Mandalay. Obtaining accurate news from within Burma is difficult, because often times, news is confirmed by a single phone call from a witness or a prominent person who can verify that the event has happened. Only through the advent of internet in Burma have people been able to record and upload videos of police/civilian brutality against protesters on Youtube (here) and Myspace (here and here).

But the NLM writes of an “investigation” that found that no such protest did occur. The newspaper states:

In the broadcast, it was stated that 12 Hluttaw [Parliament] representatives of Mandalay Division NLD and its members together with 30 people staged a one-mile protest walk from 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm on 30 August, in support of the protests demanding the fall in fuel prices; that it was the first of its kind staged because of their being criticized as there were no protest walk in Mandalay; that the incident is under investigation whether there are people and monks or not in the protest.

The article also makes a claim just as baseless: “As regards the fabricated news there were attempts made in advance among internal and external anti-government organizations.” Where did the NLM receive this information? Through its investigation of the protest incident? That seems just as fabricated to me. I could hardly believe that there is a conspiracy against the Burmese government, that a single news item on a radio broadcast had the intent of inciting civil unrest throughout the country. That is what nobody wants, not the Burmese people nor the government. If anarchy breaks loose, the people will have more to suffer. They know this. If they did not, the Burmese people would have wreaked havoc years ago.

This is a classic example of Burma’s propaganda–drawing attention away from the central issue: the government’s inability to govern (like making economic decisions, like sudden fuel price increases as opposed to incremental increases over a period of time, as suggested by the UN and economists). By blaming opposition groups of lying, the state-run newspaper NLM villianizes them and can detract from the situation at hand. These recent small-scale protests are big news–a few hundred protesters at most may have protested, but the government is shaking. It has dispatched policemen on every street corner of every major city. Yet none of these make it into Burma’s newspapers. Only that 50-word headliner did.

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