Yellow journalism: all hype and no substance

Kenji Nagai shot point blank

Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai lying dead on a street in Rangoon.

A reader has just e-mailed me the following post from LAist, a blog specializing on Los Angeles, my hometown. The post “U.S. Media Blames Santa Monica College Professor for Burma Web Blackout,” describes the unfair sensationalizing of an innocent professor at a local community college who dutifully uploaded a video of the Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai killed by Burmese troops. The newswires, like Reuters (with its headline “L.A. professor triggers Myanmar Web shutdown”), directly connect the professor’s decision to upload the video to CNN to the shutdown of internet inside Burma. It states:

A Los Angeles academic may have been a driving force behind the move by Myanmar’s 19-year-old dictatorship to shut down Internet access after bloggers posted images of soldiers killing civilians.

A Japanese broadcast showing the video of his death is here:

Burma’s blogging community has by far been the most influential force in getting the news to the public. From evening news broadcasts in the U.S. to global news stations, amateur photographs and shaky video have provided evidence of the military government’s brutality. A query of “burma+protest” yields nearly 300 videos.

Since soldiers raided Burma’s ISP headquarters in the Rangoon University four days ago, news has been slower to travel. A commentary from The Irrawaddy explains everything.

Also, I also disagree with the convenient name given to the recent protests in Burma: “Saffron Revolution.” The name is too simplistic, inferring that these protests are religious in nature and that it is indeed a revolution. However, neither is true. Gambari still held hands with Than Shwe during their meeting in Naypyidaw. Thousands of monks are now arrested, in overflowing jails and makeshift detention centers. And the protests–which I would myself describe as marches–were initially economic in nature and became political. The media often forgets the bigger picture, sensationalizing stories of ordinary people who just want change for the better. Burma cannot be changed by an overthrow of a 45-year-long dictatorship (combining the current junta and the pseudosocialist one years ago.)

Ibrahim Gambari has since left Burma, after meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and the State Peace and Development Council. The leukemia-ridden and recently incapacitated prime minister Soe Win, according to Mizzima News, has passed away. But that is unlikely to change the bigger picture.

Yellow journalism is dangerous. It makes the situation seem superficial, fantastic and unreal. It raises hopes that seem are truthfully far off. But the media needs to get grounded in reality and stop simplifying what Burma truly needs: a sustainable federal democracy that grants autonomy to all of its people.


One thought on “Yellow journalism: all hype and no substance

  1. Zaw Win says:

    This is a well thought-out and timely piece, AHK. You have an excellent blog high up on my list of bookmarks.


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