Tuesday, October 02, 2007

So, should we now boycott the BBC?

It's one of those freaks of timing: the day I raised the possibility of including Lonely Planet guides in a boycott of companies profiting from the Burmese military dictatorship, the sale of the publishing house to BBC Worldwide (the commercial arm of the BBC) has increased the spotlight on Lonely Planet for their support of tourism in Burma.

The publishers of the world-famous travel guides have defended their support of tourism in Burma by insisting that they make their feelings about the Burmese military junta quite clear to their readers, and encourage them (as potential tourists to Burma) to think through their decision to visit the country.

It is clear,
however, that their guide encourages tourism in Burma, in contravention of an international boycott of such tourism and commercial dealings in Burma – called for by democracy and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (amongst others).

While such tourism has been defended as allowing people to discover for their selves what's going on in Burma and help the people, others such as Britain's Burma Campaign have argued strongly that tourism directly benefits the junta, and is intimately tied to their repression of the population:
Burma's military regime has identified tourism as a vital source of income and it is working hard to develop the industry. According to the Ministry of Tourism, its top two objectives in developing tourism are to generate foreign exchange earnings and attract foreign investment. Compared to its neighbours, Burma's tourism industry may be small but it is still earning a cash strapped regime millions of dollars every year.

in Burma many human rights abuses are directly connected to the regime's drive to develop the country for tourists. Throughout Burma men, women and children have been forced to labour on roads, railways and tourism projects; more than one million people have been forced out of their homes in order to 'beautify' cities, suppress dissent, and make way for tourism developments, such as hotels, airports and golf courses.
So, I'm wondering now if a boycott of companies profiting from Burmese dictatorship should be extended to the BBC's commercial activities? Does that mean that I should refrain from buying the previous season of Dr Who on DVD? Darn. What would The Doctor do?

Well, if principles and ethical buying didn't make our choices challenging – even difficult – it wouldn't be so interesting, would it?

On another note, thanks to a commenter here this morning, we've learned that bloggers who support democracy in Burma are encouraged to join in the International day of Blogger action to free Burma on 4 October. You can do this by posting a banner from the Free Burma blog campaign on your blog.

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