Incredible, painful, moving site on the Myanmar disaster.

A friend, K, writes:

Its not great journalism as such but it’s also, sadly, important testimonial work at this point – the gathering and reporting for the record and for family tracing purposes as well. Difficult work for Burmese, by Burmese about what has happened, and how it looks almost 7 days later.

The site contains many graphic images of death, and in a newspaper would be controversial material. I’m in the camp that generally supports publishing such images, whether in natural disasters or war, and regardless of the nationality of the victims.

US newspapers rarely show images of death so directly, though its tendency is to do so more frequently in the developing world than for images of US victims, and especially, war victims. A friend at the NY Times says that there’s no hard and fast editorial policy for showing such pictures, but rather, that it’s based on a judgment about newsworthiness, and includes concerns such as overexposure and consequent numbing of the effects of such images, and a concern over gratuitous graphics. Different cultures also apply different standards to the depiction of death. In the former Soviet Union, for instance, intensely graphic images are commonplace. Read Barbie Zelizer, “Death in Wartime: Photographs and the ‘Other War’ in Afghanistan” for an interesting analysis of this. Barbie also writes more broadly about visual culture and war, especially on the Holocaust, and is a useful starting point for a broader investigation into the subject.

One of the more devastating images:

Komyo also has good links to other Burma blogs, mostly political. Komyo is in Burmese, but a few links have English-language sections. See Freedom for Burma: Burmese Bloggers w/o Borders as an example.

Note for this site, for the most part I’m using Burma or Myanmar depending on whether the sources uses one or the other. I’m tempted to say that this disaster is occurring in Myanmar, but to Burma. The human elements are driven by the facts of the state of Myanmar, but the affected have been people with no real enfranchisement or say in the direction of their governance. Now, it looks as if the south will be disenfranchised from the upcoming constitutional referendum.

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