KS: This particular flying circus is about the confluence of art, journalism and activism.    
Which is why, he says, we're starting with Zeya, VJ 17 with Democratic Voice of Burma (DMV), codename Sparrow. 

(Don't believe him! Originally, we were gonna start with Venuri.)

Zeya's earlier presentation was a wide-angle lens view of his 22 year-old life (whoops, no, he just turned 23): his activist heritage, his initiation, his jail time. This time it looks like he's concentrating on just a few stories he's covered.
First, a prison school. He got an anonymous tip-off from a citizen about a prison for children, which no-one knew about - it was in a district of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's and even she'd never visited it; even motorcycle taxis wouldn't take him there. Somehow he managed to extract the phone number of the principal, who only gave him permission to visit at 3am in the morning: he took off at 5am and arrived by 9 to find all the children dressed in UNICEF-donated uniforms that they'd never been allowed to wear before, putting on a show for him...

And yet he decided not to do as damning an exposé as he could have, because he needed to return and show more of this problem. The strangeness of professionalism.
A clip about a community of 200,000, that a government crony is trying to clear out so he can take over their land for development. He secured a promise from the businessman that he wouldn't do it for another year. Seems that ministers and magnates are scared stiff of him, because he does so much research, because his news reports actually contain his own suggestions for solutions to the problems so they can't say there's no other way.

So they send thugs to intimidate him. Villagers now surround him as his bodyguards. This is all post-reform trouble, remember: while some reporters are covering big issues from the border, he's looking at more local stories, choosing to stay in the country and fight the difficult fight: not just for freedom, but to becoming a workable state.

Most of these images are low-res views, by the way. He has a rationale for that.
Zeya: I didn’t focus on the quality at that time because I didn’t believe the audience is looking for good quality entertainment when they were watching this news. They were looking for something that’s real, evidence of what’s going on in their country. So I focused on that evidence, getting the footage.
Whoops: mistake about microcosmic view. He's now covering his early career as well, as a 16 year-old amateur photo video journalist for the Saffron Revolution of 2007, working by instinct instead of training.
Zeya: I bought all these SIM cards which I didn’t need to register. Using these sim cards I was able to communicate with people in other countries and find out what knd f footage I could get. That’s how I was able to carry out this operation.

My mother was a little bit suspicious of my behavior of having used so much money, and she actually thought I was taking drugs. In the end, this suspicion my mother had was finally cleared when I was arrested for political involvement. It was only when I was arrested and interrogated by the Special Police that I learned my father was also working for the same television channel as I was.
(That's his dad above, btw.)

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. The government didn't get on his tail for ages, because they believed they were looking for someone much older.

When he was 17, he was covering Hurricane Nargis, sneaking in with the donors to the devastated villages, pretending he was covering the giving of gifts. But then officials became suspicious and searched the cars for journalists, making arrests. They even arrested one of Zeya's colleagues right in front of him - the poets and intellectuals had to physically pull him back from rushing forward and giving the Special Police an uppercut. (He had a handicam under this seat and could've been arrested too - was so scared he started to cry. Only escaped because their van was holding up traffic and the police figured they'd scared them enough.)
Zeya: After that we decided never to use land transportation, and decided to go by the water rout. Going by the water rout was very shocking for me, because a swe were going through the rivers and streams, we saw many corpses of people who had not been taken out fo the water bodies. We encountered dead bodies of children and adults. There were a lot of them that were still floating on the river.

We took photos of the corpses. It took people 8 days to realize there were actually a lot of casualties from this disaster.t he casualties were around 300,000 people.

When we arrived in the village we saw all the people there and even the animals were behaving very strangely. They were walking straight into the water and not coming out again. Because ei encountered this, it affected me greatly mentally and psychologically. I felt something was going on with me. I shouted and cried a lot during that time.

When I came back from the trip I couldn’t eat for two days. Anything that I put into my mouth came out again. That was the first time in my life I rethought my ambition to be a video journalist. However, when I heard news that the US military was sending some aid to these victims, that was when I became a little bit happier, was a little more uplifted. And that was when I picked up my camera again.
Not long after this, he tried to go to Thailand to learn journalism. Difficult without a passport.
Zeya: At the age of 16 when I wanted to apply for a passport, it was very difficult for me because ei’m on a blacklist. My father, even right now, has no national registration card. We kept on living this way, as though we were not really real citizens.

Around the age of 18 I got my passport. And I was very lucky, because at that time 30 govenremnt officials who were working at the govenremnt officers because they were taking bribes. And before these officials were fired they decided to delete the blacklist. And therefore I got my passport.

I learned about this from one of the government officials who was fired from the prison, and I learned from him that the black list has been taken out. But in order to provide him with a  favour, I had to help that person cross the border to Thailand to escape from the government.

At first this person was a bit skeptical because ei was very young at that time. But I was able to gradually earn his trust by showing him by VJ code name and VJ number. As a video journalist I wasn’t just involved in collecting news. I was also helping people and myself out to cross borders into another country.

So at the age of 20 I decided to go to Thailand legally. So I actually made an announcement to all my friends and all my activists out there that I would like them to come to my birthday party on that day so the govenremnt would think that I wuld still be in the country. But actually that day I left by the airport. Legally.
The authorities gave him hell when he came back though - called his home (he pretended it was the wrong number) then sent an official from the township council over personally to check on him.
Things came to a head 14 days later, when he was covering the nation's biggest every bombing: three bombs went off during the Water Festival. Lots of people were shooting this with their handphones and their point-and-shoot cameras: he made the mistake of pulling out his DSLR, and the cops nabbed him.

But get this - even in prison, he and other journalists were recording video for DVB. He used a camera hidden in his button - courtesy of China.
Zeya: I have to thank China a lot for providing me with the equipment. We also had other hidden cameras inside caps, bells, ballpoint pens. We were able to get this equipment into our hands even when we were inside.

If I was found to be taking this clips, could have extended stay by three times [from 15 years to 45 years]. But I had never really seen the law on paper, so it was easy for me to forget about it.  I knew the risk that I was in, kept filming inside prison.
Luckily he was released during the the general amnesty a couple of years ago, so he's here to tell us his story. Plus, he's been featured as one of the 20 DVB heroes for the organisation's 20th anniversary. He showed us a few of the faces, and their hidden stories. This one's a chef, he said. This one plays the guitar really well. This one's my father; he's a painter.

But now that censorship's over, what role does he play, I asked.
Zeya: Since I’m working for DVB which is a television station in exile, most of my news is not according to Myanmar government and official news. Right now I have submitted the story I covered about the youth news to one of the competition fronts to present this story I have covered. My main aim is for the local audience presented by local journalists. 

My main aim is not to foreign people, it’s more about what’s going on in daily lives. That’s what I’m trying to show and cover.
 


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