Talk2DVB: Ripple Impact and System Failure
In Burma, where the system is corrupted, any democratic attempt can be infected.
“Thanks a lot DVB, we’ve solved the I.D. problems.”
“We no longer need to move our shops away, thanks DVB.”
We receive hundreds of emails with such thank you’s, and even though we don’t have enough time to read all of them, they encourage talk2dvb’s staff.
- 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.
Though we were not able to research what percentage of our audience’s concerns have been taken seriously, and how much suffering has been relieved, there has been some action from the authorities following talk2dvb’s TV segments.
Why have some of the audience’s problems been successfully solved? It could be that the authorities have good will, watch DVB, and take the necessary actions. Or that they are just trying to fix things after people make noise. Or that higher officials instruct local officials to stop doing something when they become aware of it. We cannot know.
Nevertheless, there are also some problems that no authority cares about even after our audience cries out loudly. We cannot predict that every problem we expose is going to be solved, or know how many issues will remain the same. Neither can we predict other kinds of issues. Recently, for example, we became aware of the fact that corrupt officials are being blackmailed by people who say things like, “Give me money, or I will report you to talk2dvb.”
For example, an engineer from a government construction company claimed that someone had blackmailed him via phone, threatening to send a message to talk2dvb about corruption at a construction site. The blackmail didn’t succeed, but a loud alarm rang in the back of my head after that story. It’s shocking to think that talk2dvb is becoming a way to make money off of corrupt officials. If this becomes common, there might be many “Watergates” that remain unreported.
Adding to these complications, some stories have two sides. For example, parents claimed they were asked for extra money for school admission fees. After sharing this on the show, education officials ordered their staff not to do so. The parents are happy, but there are other letters, and another side of the story. The education ministry is under-budgeted and couldn’t maintain the school without allowing teachers to raise funds on their own.
Some stories have three sides, and all of them write to talk2dvb: One letter said that police are taking bribes to allow the sale of illegal two-digit lottery tickets; low-level police officers write letters saying that they are too poor to survive on their salary; a retired teacher sends a message saying he needs to sell lottery tickets because it’s impossible to survive on a $5 a month pension.
All of these issues illustrate Burma as a failed system in which problems are all part of a cycle of negative feedback that is the legacy of decades of corrupt dictators.