(Interview) – Burma VJ, a Thai-based news group, says it will continue to expose human rights violations in Burma by using media as a tool to make positive changes. Burma VJ, previously affiliated with the Democratic Voice of Burma, said that is now an independent group and it will publish its videos and photographs on Facebook (Burma VJ Media Network) to reveal violations of human rights in Burma. Burma VJ was formed in 2006. During an issue involving the loss of US$ 300,000 at DVB in early October 2011, Burma VJ members resigned from DVB. Mizzimacorrespondent Tun Tun talked with Burma VJ member Aung Gyi about the group’s new posture, its future plans and financial matters.
A clip from the documentary Burma VJ by the video-journalist-activists group. Twenty-three Burmese journalists have been imprisoned by the government. Photo: Burma VJ
Q: Please explain how Burma VJ was formed?
Answer: I’m one of the founders of Burma VJ. In late 2006, we moved to Thailand to make a documentary film, “Burma VJ.” Then we started to work in Bangkok.Originally, Burma VJ was not formed with experienced video journalists. It was formed with political activists in Burma including me. I’ve been imprisoned once. Most of the members of Burma VJ are also former political prisoners. As for us, we just use media as a tool to achieve our political objectives. We all are not dedicated journalists. We are activists. About 90 percent of Burma VJ’s members live in foreign countries and inside Burma most are former political prisoners. The main thing I would like to say is that some media reports are saying Burma VJ did not really exist [it was just a façade]. They [media] say it comprises only citizens. As a member of Burma VJ, I can say that fact is not true.
Q: What is the current goal of Burma VJ?
A: Our main objective is trying to let the world know about all current human rights violations in Burma. That’s our main objective. We report about child soldier cases. Earlier, we did the [Burma’s] nuclear issue. Our group took pictures of the 2007 revolution, especially the video in which the Japanese journalist was shot dead. We are trying to revealhuman rights violations in Burma.
Q: How many members are there in Burma VJ?
A: I think I don’t need to say how many members. We will continue our work in the name “Burma VJ.” We are trying to survive. Some members are taking news photos and videos inside Burma. For security reasons, I don’t want to disclose how many members we have. Anyway, our group still exists. Anyone who wants to know about our activities can see our Facebook page, “Burma VJ Media Network.” We publish news photos and videos there.
Q: What will your group do in future?
A: Earlier, we were under a news agency. Now, we don’t need to follow the policy of a news agency. So we think we have become more independent. Now we are trying to link with more international media than before. We also help to forward messages including video messages of people inside Burma to international conferences. We do that for our political objectives.
Q: Now, which work are you doing?
A: We are reporting about events inside the country. We send them to the media that wants the news. And we upload our news on Facebook. We’ve already said that anyone can use our videos and photos for free just by giving us credit for photos and videos
Q: Do you get support for the survival of the group?
A: We do not get any help and support presently. The reporters in Burma are continuing their work only with their indomitable spirit.
Q: So, does your group encounter new difficulties?
A: Yes, we have more financial problems than before. So we cannot spend money like before. Anyway, we are doing as much as we can.
Q: Do you have any plan to set up a separate media group?
A: Yes, we have an idea. But, to implement it, we will encounter many challenges. We are trying to overcome those challenges. We have an idea to launch an independent news agency in Burma. Now, we are trying as much as we can to fulfill financial and technical requirements and to increase manpower. We are doing the same work as when we cooperated with DVB. We sent our news outside the country.
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: We are doing as much as we can. Our friends and colleagues inside the country are working with us. We would like to say that we are finding effective ways to let the world know about events in Burma and working as much as we can.