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Burma: Underground Journalists


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Rights & Democracy sponsoring groundbreaking film screening on the Democratic Voice of Burma

TORONTO – April 27, 2009 – The gripping story of “Joshua†and other Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) video journalists risking arrest and torture to document life under Burma’s military regime is the subject of the new documentary making its Canadian debut in Toronto next Monday, May 4, on the heels of World Press Freedom Day.

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Society is a co-presentation of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and Rights & Democracy (International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development), which supports the DVB’s work. Media and members of the public will have the unique opportunity to meet “Joshua,†Khin Maung Win, Director of the DVB, and Anders Østergaard, the documentary’s director, at a 9 AM press conference on Tuesday, May 5, at the University of Toronto’s Innis College.

Burma VJ is comprised largely of material shot by the undercover journalists of the DVB, a non-profit media organization dedicated to providing free and fair information inside Burma. Some elements of the film have been reconstructed in close collaboration with the actual persons involved, just as some names, places, and other recognizable facts have been altered for security reasons and in order to protect individuals.

“Armed with small handy cams, the DVB’s undercover video journalists keep up the flow of news from their closed country,†said Rémy M. Beauregard, President of Rights & Democracy. “They have gained international exposure with their coverage of Cyclone Nargis’ devastation last year and the monk-led pro-democracy demonstrations in 2007.â€

Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, acclaimed director Anders Østergaard, brings us close to the video journalists who deliver this footage. Risking torture and life in jail, these courageous young citizens of Burma live the essence of journalism and stop at nothing to report.

Their material is smuggled out of the country and is broadcast from the DVB’s headquarters in Oslo, Norway, back into Burma via satellite. It is also provided to international media for distribution. The whole world has witnessed single event clips made by the DVB’s VJs, but for the very first time, their individual images have been carefully put together. The result is a much bigger story.

“Joshuaâ€, aged 27, is one of the young video journalists, who works undercover to counter the propaganda of the military regime. When peaceful, popular protests erupted in September 2007, no foreign TV crews were allowed in the country, leaving Joshua and his crew to keep the revolution alive on TV screens the world over.

Rights & Democracy’s involvement in Burma dates to 1990, the year Burma’s military refused to cede power to Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party after its landslide election victory. Our Burma programme’s objectives include: ensuring a peaceful transition to democratic rule and the liberation of all political prisoners; empowering women and assuring their participation in the democratic process; documenting human rights violations committed by the junta; and supporting free and independent media through the Democratic Voice of Burma, thanks to support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The press conference takes place on Tuesday, May 5, from 9 am to 10 am at Innis Town Hall, Innis College, University of Toronto, 2 Sussex Avenue.

For more information, please contact Steve Smith at Rights & Democracy, 514-898-4157.

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I was reading about this one too. Damn, just got offered tix for it here at work too (but i can't go that night) and they got scooped up.

I went to a really interesting panel discussion that touched on a lot of these subjects, here at CBC the other day. I don't know if it's going to be broadcast. I can pull the podcast and post here if you're interested. It was good!

CBC Toronto and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression marked World Press Freedom Day (coming up tomorrow--Saturday, May 2) by hosting a “Reporting in Afghanistan†panel discussion in Glenn Gould Studio to look at the challenges facing foreign and local reporters, the pros and cons of embedded reporting, and the role of reporting in shaping Canadian policy and public opinion.
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  • 4 months later...

This is on CBC Newsworld on Monday, September 28:


Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country

Monday September 28, 2009 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC Newsworld

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is a riveting documentary that follows a determined group of video journalists (VJs) who risk their lives to expose the repressive government ruling their country. Armed with pocket-sized video cameras, they go undercover to report on anti-government protests, smuggle material out of the country and broadcast back into Burma via satellite, or offer their stories for free usage to international media.

A winner at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and the Amsterdam Documentary Festival, Burma VJ follows these local VJs as they record the massive anti-government protests led by thousands of Buddhist monks in Sept. 2007, and exposes the military junta's brutal crackdown which began on Sept. 26, 2007.

shooting in Burma

Viewers will be introduced to 27 year-old "Joshua", an undercover VJ who suddenly becomes the tactical leader of the undercover reporters who risk death or life in jail if caught. With foreign TV crews banned from entering the country at the time, it was Joshua and his crew who documented the events, exposing the story to the rest of the world. It is their footage that kept the revolution alive.

As government intelligence agents understood the power of the camera, the VJs soon became a target. During the turbulent days of Sept., Joshua finds himself on an emotional rollercoaster between hope and despair as he frantically tries to keep track of his reporters in the streets. With Joshua as the psychological lens, the Burmese condition is exposed to a global audience, who rarely gets to see more than a news clip from this closed country.

Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country is directed by acclaimed Danish filmmaker Anders Ostergaard. CBC Newsworld was one of a group of international broadcasters who helped finance the documentary.

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