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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 22:38 GMT 23:38 UK
Burmese TV broadcasts from Norway
By Lars Bevanger
BBC News, Oslo

Khin Maung Win watching the new programme
Mr Khin hopes 10% of Burmese will watch the programme
For the first time, millions of Burmese can now tune in to independent television news, made by Burmese in their own language.

Broadcasting by satellite from the distant nation of Norway, the Democratic Voice of Burma avoids Burmese state censorship.

In one of its first TV news pieces, the station detailed the harsh reality of the lives of Burmese workers on the border with Thailand.

Until now, a broadcast like this would have been unthinkable in Burma.

The country is ranked as one of the world's worst for media freedom.

The military rulers will not allow anything which could be seen as critical of the current government.

Khin Maung Win runs the TV station with his team of exiled Burmese citizens.

For many years, they have run a radio station from the same offices.

Recently in Bassein, outside Rangoon, the electricity was cut off when the... programme started - it means the authorities are afraid
Vincent Brossel
Reporters without Borders
"We hope to reach up to 10% of the Burmese population with our TV broadcasts," said Mr Khin.

"We are focused on information and education, such as the plight of Burmese migrant workers abroad, the HIV/Aids situation, the environment situation. This is all information all the people in Burma need.

"The government chooses the programmes that seem to be beneficial to them, but we will choose the programmes that are beneficial for the viewer and the people," he said.

Smuggling tapes

While the editorial team sits in safety in Oslo, television journalists on the ground risk arrest by secretly filming footage inside Burma, and smuggling the tapes to a neighbouring country.

News editor Moe Aye talks regularly on the telephone to his secret contacts in Burma.

Having established the line, he spends some minutes making sure it is safe, and that the contact cannot be overheard.

News editor Moe Aye
Moe Aye's contacts take many personal risks
The contacts "really want to inform and let us know what is happening inside Burma," explained Mr Moe. "On the other hand they're really concerned about their lives and their security."

The Democratic Voice of Burma says its television programmes are an important part of the non-violent fight in support of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

She was banned by the military from travelling to Oslo to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

The Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranks Burma third worst for media freedom, after North Korea and Cuba.

Its Burma expert, Vincent Brossel, welcomes the new TV station, and hopes people will risk watching it.

"There is a law against satellite transmission, and you can go to jail if you have a parabole [satellite dish] without a licence," he told the BBC News website.

"But we know now so many people have paraboles and can watch this TV programme. People inside can understand that outside the Burmese are also fighting for democracy.

"A friend told me that recently in Bassein, outside Rangoon, the electricity was cut off when the DVB [Democratic Voice of Burma] programme started. So it means the authorities are afraid of the DVB TV influence."

"Generals will tune in"

But back at the television station, editor Khin Maung Win is not worried that the military will stop the programme. He thinks the generals themselves will tune in.

Democratic Voice of Burma offices
The station supports Aung San Suu Kyi (in the right-hand picture)
"At the beginning they jammed our radio, but later on they became our regular audience, because they wanted to get real information, even about their own country," he said.

"They cannot rely on reports from their subordinates. So they have to listen to our radio to get real information, or to measure the feeling of the grassroot people. We believe that will happen with television also."

For now Democratic Voice of Burma TV broadcasts two hours of news and educational programmes weekly.

It wants to expand to become a daily source of television news for viewers inside Burma.

And as long as the media situation remains unchanged, the station will continue to broadcast from far-away Norway.


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