Trouble Behind the Scenes at Talk2DVB
“Girl or boy?”
“Age, sex, location?”
“Who the hell are you?”
These are samples of the annoying messages we receive on talk2dvb@gmail, the gmail chat account of Democratic Voices of Burma. Though it’s possible to know who’s leaving comments on our Facebook page, you can never know who someone is on G-chat. That’s why we must be patient when dealing with several thousand followers. Lost temper? We block them.
- Though the video journalists of Democratic Voice of Burma provide daily news stories for Burma’s media, what no one gets to see is what happens behind the camera, off screen. I ask them why they do what they do and what they see as they expose a country that has been under the shadow of dictatorships for decades.
- Than Win Htut joined Democratic Voice of Burma since 2005 as a senior producer and began working as a sub-editor in tv news last year. After leaving Burma, Than lived on the Thai-Burma border and wrote for many exiled media outlets including Khit Pyaing, Amyin Thit, The Irrawaddy Magazine, and Mizzima News. He produces his own weekly science and technology TV show called “Khit Hlaine,” working with around 40 Burmese reporters living in Thailand and 40 living in Burma. He currently lives in Oslo, Norway.
We only keep people who come to talk about their problems: Local armies grabbing land from poor farmers, abuse from officials, child soldiers, forced labour, corruption, no electricity, no running water. They are desperately seeking help since no one else has paid attention to them, but it’s too much noise.
Like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” the scream from Burma is getting louder, louder! LOUDER!
“Dong! Dong! Dong! Dong!” The notification sounds on G-chat are non-stop from angry people. To deal with the flood of complaints we needed the help of some reporters from our office in Thailand until we started running an office in Norway. Sometimes there are four to five DVB members checking the account at the same time.
What is frustrating is that, apart from follow-up questions on each of the issues our contacts raise, we can’t talk to them like we would in a personal chat. We can’t even give a name when they ask who we are. Rather, we say we are a group, the talk2dvb team. Of course, some people don’t feel comfortable with such a robotic answer.
Even though it’s great to have thousands of contributors and to link them to one another, sometimes it can be a burden when all of us are on the run just before a live news broadcast. The rush hours.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“That f—ing busy?”
Ah, there’s an angry mob on the line if you don’t pay attention for several minutes. If this was happening in the real world, there might be flying slippers and bottles.
On one occasion two anchors were reading some letters on-air. Next to them was a big TV screen showing our Gmail page.
I whispered into their earpiece, “Hey look! someone is talking right now about the early vote problem.” Then they read the comment on the show.
I wanted to show real-time incoming messages like other programs do, but it was a big mistake. The author sent us several messages after the broadcast.
“Why did you show my chat on a live talk-show?”
“It’s my real name, and now the whole town realizes it was me.”
“Got a problem, police watching me.”
We had made trouble for one of our sources, and the only thing we could do was apologize.
It was surprising to know that so many people were watching us in a small town in the middle of Burma,but it was also a spicy lesson for me: Of thousands of account names, not all are pseudonyms. Be careful when revealing your sources in such authoritarian country.