Hunting the Media

PYAY // Located on the east bank of the Irrawaddy River, Pyay is a major economic hub of the Bago region, which is well-connected to Yangon via the first railway built in Burma during the British colonial era. There, the anti-coup protests usually started from the State University.

On this morning, soldiers and policemen blocked the entrance to the campus where students and strikers were gathering. They ordered the dispersal of the crowd and prepared guns and water cannons, but the protesters did neither move nor remove the barricades they had erected. At noon, they fired into the first line of protesters and shot a dozen of people in the face, including a member of our collective of photographers.

Schools were raided and student leaders and civilians with visible wounds were hunted down. One senior journalist was arrested and all local reporters have gone into hiding since then. Most independent publications in Myanmar have gone into exile or have stopped reporting on the ground. As in many small towns, and especially in ethnic areas, there is no media outlet left to cover the local events in Pyay. Vast swaths of the country are now dark holes from where no news gets out, except for sporadic information and snaps by smartphone owners.

But even citizen journalism has become increasingly difficult as access to electricity and the Internet has been intermittent since the coup, connections have slowed and popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are blocked. Some ‘resistance radios’ and paper leaflets have made a comeback to continue to inform the public in case all telecommunications were to be cut off as the conflict progresses on all fronts. Pro-democracy activists from other Asian countries gathered into the virtual Milk Tea Alliance to try to keep the light on #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar on their social network accounts.