Editor's Blog: Burmese days on the internet

Twenty years and one medium on...

Twenty years and one medium on...

The last few days have seen events in Burma reach the kind of intensity we've seen in several countries over the past 20 years or so. Or at least that's how it seems, through the keyhole of leaked video phone images, second hand reports and the distorted eye of that country's state media.

Only it is clear that whereas the pro-democracy movement in that country two decades back only got so far, now the internet - however much officials try to choke its pipes - has enabled momentum to gather.

A BBC report this morning by Rory Cellan Jones pointed out that fewer than one in a hundred Burmese have internet access. That access is mainly at internet cafés and then highly censored.

How many reports have you heard in the past few days from anonymous tourists just back from a trip or students from a foreign exchange visit? Even the BBC's main correspondent is in Bangkok - nearby but hardly on the ground, albeit for understandable reasons.

When commentators have in the past talked about net censorship in other countries - notably the 'great firewall of China' - the emphasis has been on the control the government can exert and how Western comms equipment-makers appear only too happy to sell to these regimes.

But now what we've long known is being proved. Just as there is a way to intercept or block almost any digital connection, so too - with time and the right kind of nous - is there a way to get around it.

In the late 1980s, Burmese protesters couldn't get around old media and old telecoms infrastructure.

Now, let's be thankful for the internet - and hope for peace and progress in that country soon.