Vietnam, World Bank partner to combat climate change

The World Bank and Vietnam are joining forces for a project that brings communities together to combat the ill effects of climate change.

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The 2010 Burma election and online citizen journalism

An internet cafe in Burma

An internet cafe in Burma (photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

For many countries, 2010 is election year. Even the most apolitical internet surfers are relentlessly reminded of that when they go online. Can we expect a similar response from Burma, now that General Than Shwe announced that elections would be held in the country for the first time in two decades? The Irrawaddy, an online newspaper run by Burmese journalists from Chiang Mai, Thailand, promptly created a page dedicated to the Burmese election. Burmese activists in exile are also actively tweeting developments. However, from inside Burma itself, online political comments remain few and clandestine. If the ruling junta is truly sincere about wanting Burma to transition into a democracy, then it must change this.

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BBC’s Tropic of Cancer defies parachute journalism

Simon Reeve carries show banner

A show where good reportage meets travelogue

My favourite travel show of the moment is BBC 2’s Tropic of Cancer. The programme gets its name from the northern boundary of the tropics and has presenter Simon Reeve travelling to parts of the Caribbean, Northern Africa, Mexico, Laos, Burma, and other places “beautiful but blighted”. The reason why I like it so much is because it merges current affairs reportage while featuring travel-worthy areas of those destinations.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Simon Reeve (read my article on Tropic of Cancer for Forge Press on page 21 here) and he, indeed, confirmed that his team spent two years doing in-depth research for the show. And what a difference that has made! Many travel shows do show us that the world is a pretty place but they often fail to educate people about a place’s true nature. This is partly the fault of “parachute journalists” or media people who take things as face-value and do not put in the effort of understanding the foreign environment they are in.

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Indonesia: info campaign & publicity needed for family planning programme

Indonesian children

(photo: flickr)

The Jakarta Post reports that only 70% of couples in Jakarta’s poorest districts, Koja and Cilincing, were able to avail of Indonesia’s family planning programme (KB). While the programme aims at a two-child policy, a majority of couples have six to seven children.

This shows that access to reproductive health is still very much a problem in the developing world. One of the UN’s eight Millennium Development Goals, in fact, aims at addressing this. Goal five seeks to get all hands on deck to improve maternal health by 2015. Part of acheiving this is by ensuring that contraceptives and information on family planning are widely available.

Yet why are well-intended programmes, such as the KB, failing?

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Cambodian government threatens to expel UN envoy

The UN and Cambodian flags (photo:

The Phnom Penh Post reported on March 22, 2010 that the Cambodian government threatened to expel UN envoy Douglas Broderick for his criticisms of an anti-corruption law that was recently passed. Mr Broderick was said to have written a letter to the media which decried the lack of public consultation for the law.

What came to mind when I was reading the article was our discussion on “media imperialism” in class. It’s a theory that states that developing countries lose their cultural identity and soul because of the influx of western media. I think countries like Cambodia- developing, once a former colony- are especially sensitive to what the foreign press has to say. The prevailing  mentality is that they do not understand us. They have a hidden agenda, they plan to oppress in some way or another.

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Twitter amplifies, drums up interest in Philippine vice-presidential debate

While I was online last Sunday (March 21, 2010), something interesting happened: my Twitter feed was suddenly bombarded with messages about the ongoing Philippine vice-presidential debate on ABS-CBN. #harapan, as the televised debate was called (loosely translated as “face to face”), swiftly became the sixth trending topic on Twitter.

My former neighbour @jefftagle proclaimed it to be more exciting than the Pacquiao-Clottey boxing match and that should already say something about the intensity of the debate and the attention it attracted. Whenever Manny Pacquiao fights, expect every Filipino to be glued to the TV set, radio, or cinema screen. Expect his opponent to be character assassinated in good fun on Facebook and Twitter. In contrast, political debates usually only draw the same highly-charged reaction from a particular socio-economic bubble…until the Harapan debate.

Harapan was the marriage of traditional media and social media networks at its best and it benefited a developing country. Here’s how it happened.
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Burma Video Journalists in the Spotlight


Happy International Human Rights Day! 

Today I want to celebrate another exeptional group of heroes from my region: the citizen video journalists (VJs) of Burma. 


The military dictatorship of Burma has no great love for journalists. When monks protested in Rangoon, foreign media was banned in the country. A Japanese photojournalist  for AFP who was attempting to get footage died in the process. So you can imagine what the young citizen journalists who secretly filmed the uprisings risked. Get the footage and the world sees the repressive situation in Burma as it is.  The videos are smuggled out of Burma, given to media organizations for free, and then beamed back into the country via satellite. Get caught and you get tortured and sent to prison (and that’s if you’re lucky). 


Burma VJ is a documentary based on those footage. I think it’s essential viewing material for global journalists- you dont get any closer to the streets of Rangoon as they were during the September 07 monks’ demonstration and the subsequent brutal crackdown by the military than this. In the United Kingdom, Burma VJ shows for free at the December 11, 6.30 pm at the Cruciform Lecture Theater 2 f the University College London. The film will be introduced by Wai Hnin, an activist with the Burma Campaign UK, and a daughter of a political prisoner, Ko Mya Aye.  Watch it!  

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