May 12, 2008

Freedom of the Press, Voices of the People Stifled

Events is recent weeks have highlighted a problem in growing nations as well as long established powers, the dissolution of a free press, or the access of foreign press. Tibet, Zimbabwe, and now Myanmar are all refusing access to journalists who want to report on the hardships of their people.

In Tibet, the Chinese are stamping out all means of unrest that could spoil the summer Olympics in Bejing; Tibetans complain of beatings and brutal killings. In Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe is hanging on grimly, trying to overthrow an apparent election loss by subterfuge and violence, after running his country into the ground for twenty years. And in Myanmar, after 46 years of iron rule by a military junta, the generals want to stop outsiders from witnessing the devastation of Cyclone Nargis. They're afraid of a threat to their power.

Unfortunately for their people, major disasters and human rights violations have caused a series of devastating events in the past weeks. In China, a severe earthquake has buries hundreds of schoolchildren and killed upwards of 10,000 people. The Chinese, for all of the consternation shown from Humanitarian agencies, is actually doing their part to help their citizens through disaster.

But Myanmar is a world removed from that reality. The government, just a day after a devastating cyclone claimed 32,000 lives (with another 33,000 still missing), decided to hold a constitutional referendum rather than delay it in order to help the victims. Girls danced and balloons were released into the air to celebrate the vote.

And the Myanmar government continues to block aid from foreign countries (and no doubt is redistributing and profiting off of the given supplies and aid) and allow their citizens to suffer. An undercover British correspondent said that as many as 100,000 may now be dead with as many as a million at risk due to disease and improper nutrition or water supply. As of now, over 2 million residents are without clean water or government assisted intervention.

It is a far cry away from the US, but instead of pressuring Myanmar to recognize its citizens (kinda like we did in Iraq) we have sent billions and will not ask where or how that money is being spent. I'm sure in 5 years there will be a beautiful new palace and government buildings, and maybe they'll even send a thank you note so the elite could live in luxury.

Sphere: Related Content