Secret newsletter keeping communities informed in Myanmar

Myanmar protesters revert to their own paper newsletter in bid to combat internet outages and censorship

Monitoring groups estimate more than 700 protesters have been killed by security forces since the 1 February coup

Mayank Aggarwal@journomayank
Monday 12 April 2021 10:32
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Protesters in Myanmar have reverted to publishing their own paper newsletter to combat the internet outages and censorship employed by the military regime that replaced the country’s democratic government in a coup in February.

The underground newsletter has been started by 30-year-old Lynn Thant (name changed) who said he called it ‘Molotov’ to appeal to young people.

"This is our response to those who slow down the flow of information - and that’s a threat to us. If we write revolutionary literature and distribute it like this, we could end up in prison for many years," Thant told the AFP news agency in a video interview, his face covered with a mask.

The activist said that even if he and his fellow volunteers are arrested or killed there are many other like-minded youths who will continue printing the newsletter until their protests are successful. He claimed the newsletter has reached more than 30,000 people on Facebook.

Videos and pictures on social media have shown that people all across Myanmar are reading and secretly distributing the newsletter. Since it has no centralised printing infrastructure, they are doing so by downloading the online version, printing it and distributing it in their neighbourhoods in cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and others.

Since the coup on 1 February, protesters have been hitting the streets across Myanmar seeking the release of top leaders of the ruling National League for Democracy party, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in defiance of violent crackdown by the security forces.

In order to control coverage of the protests and the coup itself, the military has taken a series of actions against media outlets including revoking licences and shutting down independent TV channels. The authorities have also frequently shut down mobile internet access in areas affected by protests.

Protesters continue hitting the streets despite the ongoing violence against them, with police regularly opening fire with live rounds to disperse demonstrations. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group, 706 people have killed since the coup while over 3,000 are in detention.

As well as the media, the military has also taken action against celebrities and influencers in the country who have used their social media platforms to criticise the coup.

It has been estimated that nearly 200 celebrities including actors, singers and models have been arrested and are facing potential prison terms, accused of “spreading dissent”.

International efforts to stop the violence in Myanmar have failed to provide any breakthrough. On Sunday, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell accused Russia and China of blocking international efforts, including those of the UN Security Council, in handling the Myanmar situation.

“Geopolitical competition in Myanmar will make it very difficult to find common ground. But we have a duty to try,” he said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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