Journalists explain Rohingya refugee crisis
14 journalists attended 2-week journalism training organized by Turkish state broadcaster TRT
Explaining the situation in Myanmar’s restive Rakhine state, Rohingya journalists from Germany, Bangladesh and Myanmar shared their bitter experiences while covering the Rohingya refugee crisis.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Monday, Mohammad Qadir, who has been reporting on Rohingya for more than six years, said they face difficulties in collecting information from inside the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
“We have faced oppressions while working in Bangladesh, especially between 2012 and 2016. Police and intelligence agencies tried to arrest me. I had fled to Thailand,” said Qadir, a senior reporter of the Burma Times.
“But now we can freely work at Rohingya camps,” he said referring to the refugee camps in southeastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who fled from Myanmar.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, including women and children, have fled Rakhine state, mostly to bordering Bangladesh, when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.
Local reporters in Rakhine
He said his media organization has appointed scores of local reporters in Rakhine state. “But they cannot travel from one place to another. We gather information from them via cell phone and over the internet,” he added.
“One of our reporters was caught by Myanmar’s security forces while sending some information on an incident there,” he said, pointing out the surveillance activities by Myanmar authorities.
“Working with the reporters in the Rakhine state is very difficult. Reporters cannot shift from one place to another. Most of the time, we failed to get images and footages about the incidents, killings and persecutions.”
Qadir along with 14 Rohingya journalists from across the world attended a two-week journalism training program provided by Turkish state broadcaster TRT in Ankara.
“In this program, I can understand we have many shortcomings in news reporting,” he said, adding that they need more training.
“I hope TRT will organize more training programs that would include more Rohingya journalists.”
Jonah, a Rohingya teacher-cum-freelance reporter from Yangon, said not only Rakhine but whole of Myanmar is facing the ethnic issues.
– Natural resources
Despite having national identity card and all valid documents, Jonah cannot travel to Rakhine state.
“I have been working in Yangon. I can travel everywhere in the country except the Rakhine state because of being a Rohingya,” he said.
He stated the natural resources in the Rakhine state is one of the most important reasons for which the government wants to further fuel the Rohingya issue.
“Rakhine people do not want the China-built pipeline project pass through the state, so government fuelled the ethnic tension to divert the attention of the communities from the pipeline project.”
According to Jonah, providing citizenship rights to Rohingya people is crucial for solving the crisis.
He underlined that Myanmar government should immediately put the Kofi Annan report into action, which envisages basic human rights for Rohingya people.
Ibrahim Mohamed, another journalist based in Germany and one of the members of the board of Trustees of the European Rohingya Council, said the recent repatriation deal between Bangladesh and Myanmar are “mere talks between governments.”
– Rights violations
Noting that all Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh want to go to their homes, Mohamed said he did not believe the rights violation would stop sooner and the Rohingya could go back to their homes.
“We are not talking about several hundred people. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees in the camps. And it’s not so simple to just move such enormous mass,” he stressed.
He said the persecution and rights violations still continued in the Rakhine state and called on the international community to take concrete steps to stop the atrocities by Myanmar authorities.
Mohammed believed that the world doesn’t give much attention to “the ongoing genocide” in the Rakhine state.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published on Dec. 12, 2017, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.