“We are here, at what could be the final days of the Burmese revolution. Ten years after the 2007 demonstrations, with the protests for freedom on the streets as well on the net stretching into their second week, the Junta’s position is looking more untenable by the hour.”
Lindsay touched the phones screen and the video of her paused. “That’s great,” she said to her cameraman, poking at the display in an attempt to bring up the PopCast application. “If I can just get a connection out of this black hole the public will have something other than satellite images to watch.”
Bill looked over her shoulder to the crowds and the police lines beyond. “I can’t believe there are more people out today. The numbers just keep growing.”
“Let’s hope it’s as simple as when the Chinese firewall came down.” Lindsay did not move her gaze from the continually refreshing screen. “We don’t need another Iran; not while we’re here anyway.”
Bill gave a wry smile, acknowledging the grim but honest humour. He pulled his camera out of his jacket pocket. With so many devices waving in the air on both sides of the conflict he was assured anonymity.
Lindsay stopped in the middle of another attempt to gain access to the web and pressed a finger against the wireless bud in her ear. “There’s something going off on the national station.” She paused for a moment, trying to catch the words. “Shit! It keeps breaking up. Are you hearing this?”
Bill mimicked her pose as he tried to make sense of the radio transmission his phone was streaming to his earpiece. “It sounds like the foreign minister in the background, but he’s being translated into English over the top.”
“Yeah. Crap as far as I can tell.”
“We will … forward to … allowing our citizens … access … the internet,” came the heavily accented translation.
Lindsay gave a sharp intake of breath. “Did you hear that? He said something about allowing people to use the net.”
Bill was still bent low in an effort to drown out the noise of the protestors. “Deff’ something about net access.”
Lindsay stood up and began scanning the crowd for confirmation of the news. Ripples were breaking out at various points; people turning to their neighbours to pass on details. At the same time the ranks of police had stopped pushing against their adversaries. Some were twisting around to talk to comrades. From the midst of the crowd a firework roared into the air. Cheers began to break out.
“We need to get footage of this,” Lindsay yelled over the growing tide of shouting. She glanced along the street for a better vantage point. A gap on the sidewalk caught her attention. “There,” she pointed to the bench people were flowing around. “If we stand on that we can get a view of the whole lot.”
Bill followed her as she pushed through the crowd. Lindsay offered him a hand up and then surveyed the view.
“This is great,” she found she was shouting over the cheers. “Can you get the police line over my shoulder?” she asked Bill.
“Yeah,” he called as he flipped out the expandable screen on the handheld camera.
Lindsay glanced down at her phone. The screen was rolling through posts; the word freedom highlighted red in nearly all of them.
Her eyes went wide with amazement. “Jesus, I’ve got access out. The stream is going crazy. It doesn’t look like anyone’s trying to stop them.”
Bill glanced from behind the camera. “This will be great. I can see you, the police and plenty of the protesters. Ready for a take when you want.”
“Don’t bother recording it,” Lindsay told him. “Now we have the net get this streamed. We’ll make a killing on the syndication feeds.”
Bill flicked quickly through the settings on the camera. Lindsay made an attempt to straighten her hair and tidy her clothes.
“Got it,” he said. “I’m ready for go when you say the word.”
Lindsay focused on the lens and tried to block out the flow of people all around her. “Go for it.”
Bill hit the touch screen and then counted down with his fingers. Three … two … one.
“This is Lindsay Hicks reporting live from Rangoon, in Burma. The scenes behind me are being replicated on the net where millions of people are pushing their way through the restrictions the government has had in place for many years. Just as these protesters on the ground force back the lines of police, so the legions of net citizens are helping bring down the firewall that has stopped Burma’s people joining the rest of the world.”
At her back the shouts had grown louder. Lindsay glanced over her shoulder. From amongst the police a shot rang out. It was followed by more. The cheers turned to screams. With a force of will Lindsay stopped her face registering the fear that was building in her gut.
“They’re shooting the protesters,” she told the camera. “I repeat, the police are shooting on the protesters. What started as a peaceful demonstration has, in seconds, turned bloody.”
Unable to resist Lindsay twisted around to watch. From her elevated position she could make out the falling bodies. The police were pulling back, some firing directly into the crowd, others aiming over the heads of the throng.
Glass shattered as the window of a nearby building was hit. Instinct took over and Lindsay crouched down on the bench. As she ducked she felt something whiz by her neck. Her heart racing she stepped onto the ground.
“That was close,” she said as she turned to help Bill. He was lying on the wooden seat, the camera swinging by the strap around his wrist. Blood flowed from a wound in the side of his head.
13 November 2009
This week marked twenty years since the fall of the Berlin wall. Started by a misinterpreted broadcast from East Germany, it heralded the opening of communist Europe and gave people the freedom they longed for.
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