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R.E.M. to Broadcast Song from June 19th Concert into Authoritarian Country of Burma (click to view PDF)

New Technology Allows Modern “Berlin Wall” Concerts Aimed At Supporting Human Rights

For Immediate Release

June 15th, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 223-0300

(Washington, Athens, Dublin) Popular music artists R.E.M. will dedicate a song at its June 9th concert in Dublin, Ireland to the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Aung San Suu Kyi. The song will be broadcast via satellite television inside the Southeast Asian country of Burma, where Suu Kyi is held under arrest. With the aid of satellite technology, this will be the first time the Burmese people will be able to watch part of an international music concert in which musicians speak about Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Her dedication, resolve, courage and patience are the mark of a leader. We stand tall for her, as she will again stand tall for herself,” said R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe. 

Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military dictatorships. Over 1,500 political prisoners are held behind bars, while millions of Burmese citizens are forced into a modern form of slave labor. The ruling dictators have conscripted an estimated 70,000 child soldiers, far more than any other country in the world.

Aung San Suu Kyi leads Burma’s vibrant democracy and human rights movement. In stark contrast to the military regime, which rules through brute force, Aung San Suu Kyi is totally committed to nonviolence. Her political party, the National League for Democracy, won an estimated 82% of seats in parliament in Burma’s last election, but the ruling dictators ignored the results. Her overwhelming popularity among the Burmese people and her commitment to justice and democracy has led her to become known as the “Nelson Mandela of Asia.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has won over 70 major international awards for her work on behalf of the people of Burma, including the Nobel Peace Prize, Sakharov Prize for the European Parliament, and the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. She has called on individuals, organizations, and governments around the world to support Burma’s democracy movement, stating, “Please, use your liberty to promote ours.”

R.E.M. will speak about Aung San Suu Kyi onstage at the concert.

This portion of the concert will be broadcast inside Burma via satellite through the brand-new Democratic Voice of Burma television station, which is based in Norway. There are an estimated 2 million satellite dishes inside Burma, reaching up to 10 million of the country’s population of 52 million persons. Listening to democracy radio stations or watching such programs on television is illegal under the ruling military regime, a “crime” punishable by up to 7 years in prison. In the past, listeners caught listening to opposition radio stations such as Radio Free Asia have received lengthy prison sentences. Despite the serious sentences, demand for shortwave radios and satellite dishes is skyrocketing in Burma as citizens search for news uncensored by repressive governments, satellite technology is almost impossible to block.

Just as musicians used to play concerts near the Berlin Wall to encourage respect for human rights in the then-Soviet eastern bloc, modern satellite technology today allows musicians playing around the world to share their support directly with people living under repressive governments. Former dissidents in the eastern bloc countries such as Vaclav Havel, who went on to become the President of the Czech Republic after the fall of communism, cite support from musicians such as Lou Reed and others as a key motivating factor in their struggle for human rights.

The concert is part of a global series of events demanding Aung San Suu Kyi’s release on her 60th birthday, June 19th. Protests will be held at one dozen embassies of the military regime around the world, while governments in the West and Southeast Asia are rallying support for her release.

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