Hi everyone, Happy Friday! This week, our team has been thinking about this military reunion (very sweet); the mystical particles known as muons that scientists say might upend our understanding of the universe (wild); and international news (the focus of this newsletter).
Today, we have a reflection from Monday’s guest, our correspondent Hannah Beech, about how she’s covering Myanmar from afar — plus what else you need to know this week from around the world.
Before you dive in, our Modern Love Podcast team wants to know: How have you been dividing housework in the pandemic? Do you flip a coin? Leave passive-aggressive notes? Or have you given up completely? Let us know here and you might make it onto an episode.
Being a foreign correspondent is usually an exercise in being there — unless you’re trying to cover a coup in Myanmar during a pandemic. Even before the putsch, the country was almost entirely closed because of the coronavirus. And now that the country has returned to full military rule, those of us who used to fly in regularly for reporting trips to Myanmar are realizing that visas won’t reappear once the virus wanes.
Luckily, we at The Times have a remarkable network of reporters and photographers in Myanmar who are risking their lives to get the story out. They report even as they are living with summary executions on the street, daily internet blackouts, long lines to withdraw small amounts of cash from A.T.M.s, the constant threat that security forces will knock on their doors with an arrest warrant.
To be a reporter in Myanmar today, to be someone who documents the military’s casual and cruel violence, is now a crime. Dozens of journalists have been arrested. Others have been shot at. Despite this, a brave corps of journalists is documenting the military’s slaughter — at least 600 civilians have been killed since the coup — and telling the stories of those who are standing up in protest. Their ranks are supplemented by citizen reporters whose footage and photos are valuable evidence of what is unfolding in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, those of us stuck outside the country have had to rely on skills that we honed during the pandemic year as foreign correspondents who don’t travel. That means a lot of video chats and talking with sources on encrypted apps. It means asking someone to please pan their phone camera to get a full view of the interior of their house because it might provide a salient detail for a story. It means poring over shaky videos of military brutality and crosschecking them with others from different angles to ensure that the geotagging is accurate.
Even when Myanmar’s internet wasn’t strangled by the military regime, as it has been since the coup, the country was awash in rumors. The wealth of whispered stories shared with journalists was a result of the long years of isolation imposed by the ruling junta. One of my favorite activities in a Myanmar teahouse was to lean forward as someone would spill the latest tea over actual tea.
Today, the rumor mill is spinning in overdrive. It takes time to confirm things, and some of the more outlandish gossip turns out to be just that. But in other cases, what seems like unimaginable cruelty turns out to be real. Have the security forces killed more than 40 children, often with a single bullet to the head? Yes, they have. Did they burn off a tattoo on a man’s arm because it depicted the country’s ousted civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? Yes, they did.
Confirmation means talking to parents whose children have just been killed. It means watching funerals on Facebook Live. It means calling exhausted doctors, who are themselves risking arrest by helping wounded protesters, to check the details of deaths. It means sifting through anguished texts from those mourning the dead or running from soldiers as they type out messages.
Even if we’re not there in person, their pain is palpable. All we can do is try to record their experiences and do their stories justice.
Talk to Hannah on Twitter: @hkbeech.
Here’s what else you need to know this week
In addition to the latest on the fallout from the coup in Myanmar, we wanted to share a few other stories from around the world that have been on our team’s mind. Here is a roundup of headlines, compiled with the help of Rachelle Bonja — a member of The Daily’s international stories team (you can read her producer profile here!)
A “systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” in Ethiopia: He won a Nobel Peace Prize. Then Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, launched a war against his own people.
When Ethiopia’s government began a sweeping military operation in the jagged mountain region of Tigray last November, Mr. Abiy cast his goal in narrow terms: to capture the leadership of the region’s ruling party. But now, his government and its allied militia fighters are leading a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing, according to an internal United States government report obtained by The New York Times.
At least 4.5 million people are in need of assistance, according to the U.N. The turmoil has the potential to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa. Read our correspondent’s latest on the conflict, which details how rape has been used as a weapon of war — it’s hard but important reading.
A Russian opposition leader was poisoned, imprisoned — and is now in an infirmary: The health of the Russian opposition leader, Aleksei Navalny, who is currently imprisoned in a penal colony, is declining. In recent weeks, he has reportedly experienced back pain and numbness in his legs. Now, he is on hunger strike over what he describes as insufficient medical care.
On The Daily this week
Tuesday: How one woman with a grudge was able to slander an entire family online, while the sites she used avoided blame.
Wednesday: How one U.S. multinational used overseas shelters to slash its tax bill — and how the Biden administration plans to put a stop to such practices.
Thursday: Here are the arguments that have been made so far in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer accused of murdering George Floyd.
Friday: Part three of Odessa.
What to listen to this weekend
Check out some of our favorite narrated articles from this week, a new episode of Still Processing — and our latest episode of Odessa, our audio documentary about one high school’s reopening.
That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.
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