Myanmar activists launch radio program to promote federalism

In the face of government efforts to completely cut off internet access, some pro-democracy activists in Myanmar have turned to radio to reach the public, other activists and the army since the February 1 coup that brought the junta to power.

Federal FM Radio went live on April 1 at 90.2 MHz. Its targeted broadcast days are Thursdays and Sundays.

The unlicensed radio station aims to inform the public about events across the country while educating listeners about federalism – that is, having national and state government, as opposed to authoritarian military rule.

A founding member of the program who asked not to be named for security reasons told VOA that the show is a new way for people to listen to news updates around the country, without military propaganda.

“When the internet is cut, federal radio will be the means of communication and communication between them,” he said.

The station will provide information to pro-democracy leaders on the ground, and leaders will be able to use the station to speak to the public, he added. It will be one of the “powerful weapons” against the military government, he said.

“One is to educate, to inform about federalism, in big cities like Yangon,” he said. The first listeners will be in Yangon with plans to expand nationwide.

Local and international news will initially air in Burmese with broadcast plans in other languages. Organizers say the show is a nonprofit community program staffed by volunteers.

A report says the station will also air messages intended to persuade the military to defect.

According to a report by an official newspaper, Myanmar’s Military Council said it would “take action” against the program, saying it was not a licensed broadcaster. The junta has already stripped five independent media companies of their licenses.

The organizers recognize that there are obvious dangers.

“We have a high risk for our producers and technicians and citizen journalists, so we try to work, as if in an evasive way,” he said.

The Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Representative Committee (CRPH), a council formed to represent elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) party, has presented a Federal Democracy Charter, an interim constitution to replace the 2008 constitution of the country that maintains the military as the dominant force in government.

Although the move is widely seen as symbolic, the aim may be to induce the country’s ethnic armed militias to join the pro-democracy movement.
Veteran activist Moe Thway recently told VOA that members of the public expect a nationwide civil war.

The broadcast of Federal FM Radio will be a form of objection to the coup, according to an announcer.

“The ultimate goal is federal democratic union for our new Myanmar,” the announcer said. “This federal FM radio is one of the strikes.”

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained independence in 1948 from Britain, but most of its modern history has been ruled by military rule.

In 2015, the National League for Democracy party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the country’s first open democratic election.

But in last November’s general election, the military disputed the results and made unsubstantiated allegations of widespread fraud.

On February 1, the military, also known as the Tatmadaw, overthrew the NLD government and arrested de facto leader Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who now face multiple charges.

Since the coup, widespread pro-democracy resistance has been met with bullets, armored vehicles and airstrikes. Martial law was also imposed in several regions.

Thousands of people have been arrested and more than 550 killed, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners of Burma (AAPPB), an independent non-profit organization formed by political prisoners exiled from Myanmar.

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