BBG Boosts Broadcasts to Burma…er, Myanmar

Guest poster (and blogless friend of MountainRunner) LeftEnd comments on American broadcasts & Myanmar:

Interesting story from the AP. Looks like the Bush Administration is putting its money – or at least its airtime – where its mouth is, and turning up the broadcasting heat on the junta in Myanmar. Both Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are upping their broadcasts, providing the Burmese people with more comprehensive coverage of what is happening in their own country.

There doesn’t seem to be any downside in increasing broadcasts into Myanmar, especially when the country appears to be teetering on the edge. As Voice of America itself is reporting, the U.S. government is demanding that the junta cease its violent crackdown on Burmese civilians, and Myanmar’s Asian neighbors have labeled the government’s actions there as “revolting.”

In a lot of ways, this can be public diplomacy at its best. You see an opportunity, and because you’ve planned ahead, you have the communication vehicles in place to react quickly.

But there is of course a lot more to it than that.

American broadcasters must step lively here. Latest reports are that at least nine people have been killed, and as the Telegraph tells us, we may never know how many people will die in the ongoing violence. One hopes that the powers that be at VOA and RFA understand how important their discretion will be to the safety of the Burmese people. Lessons from Hungary and Poland remind us that it is one thing to keep the public informed, it’s quite another to give them false confidence that the United States is willing to take any further action.

VOA and Radio Free Asia are doing a great service – a service that hopefully will, among other things, position the United States as a beacon of information and enlightenment in the minds of the Burmese public. What we do not want, however, is for the average guy on the street to interpret the protests of U.S. leaders as a sign of tangible support in the near future. It’s safe to assume that such support is not on the way.