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Myanmar: Claims of Media Bias Towards Rohingya

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.

Eight weeks after Rakhine villages were attacked, the violence in western Myanmar continues to be a top news story in the mainstream and social media. While the international community is highlighting the statelessness of the Rohingya, many Myanmar citizens feel that ethnic Rakhine who were also victims during the riots are largely ignored. Moreover, they are accusing international news agencies, including Myanmar exile media, of covering the issue from a one-sided point of view.

Myanmar netizens have been discussing the issue of whether the Rohingya refugees should be granted citizenship which is being proposed by various international NGOs. There are 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar but majority of Myanmar's people seem to believe that Rohingya should not be recognized in one of these groups.

A 97-year-old Rakhine refugee at an emergency camp. Photo by Zaw Lwin Win

Maung Maung Wan, an activist based in New York who struggled against the military dictatorship, asserted[my] that no country should force another country to revise its local laws:

The law that has to be enacted by the public of Myanmar shouldn't be changed with the force of any organisation. No country in the world can do this. Neither UN. The government also clearly stated this. They (Rohingya) can be granted citizenship if they are eligible.

Myo Set added[my] a similar point:

No country or organisation, even the UN, regardless of its power, has the right to be involved in revising the law of one country.

Some Myanmar citizens have been accused of being racist or extreme nationalists while highlighting the Rakhine point-of-view. Some also assert that Rohingya supporters have propagated incorrect facts and figures by manipulating photos from other disasters and protests in other countries.

For example, Zaw Lwin Win uploaded a photo [viewer discretion is advised] of such manipulation. In the image, he compared two shots of an injured Rakhine man at the scene of a crime and supposedly after he was recovered. Zaw Lwin Win was the one who took those photos during an emergency aid trip to Rakhine but apparently some pro-Rohingyas are using the photo as if a Rohingya man was brutally killed. Faraz Ahmed blogged about this deception with proof of manipulated photos.

Some Myanmar netizens were frustrated to see protest actions in other countries which included the burning of Myanmar's national flag and the poster of the country's president. Myo Sann Aung commented on a photo of protest against Myanmar in India:

Dear Pro-Rohingya people,

You are misled indeed. Human right advocates are misled indeed by racist instigators living abroad. People on the ground know what is really happening. You are living in the sky and air…and the sky you are living with is filled with skillful liars.

Some netizens believe that the Myanmar government, especially the Ministry of Information, should be more pro-active in handling this issue. Sai Zaw urged[my] the government to be more open to the public and media:

I understand “news” as reporting as timely as [the reporter] is able to. I suppose such propagated news seem to be accepted as truth because the government ministries such as the Ministry of Information and Ministry of Communication are not open enough to the public.

Su Mwan, a young Rakhine who supported media networks such as BBC, DVB, RFA & VOA, urged them not to twist the news.

Foreign Policy, The Diplomat, Newsmandala, Guardian, Bangkok Post, The Nation, Aljazeera are my favorites which I no longer need to memorize as trusted news resources. However, they twisted stories already. I have been reading the featured stories in the above news website with regard to the riots in Rakhine state. The reporters have described the conflict as a clash between Buddhists and Muslims. I think it is very dangerous when international media spread out the wrong information and mislead the whole community in the world. It harms the society and victims who are innocent.

Kyaw Thu Yein Lwin requested everybody to build peace peacefully:

Please do not make fake photos anymore. Please do not lie the world.
We all are the same, human beings, we built the world together.
Why should we hate each other?
I learned that “Islam” means “Peace”
Right? If so, Let's bring peace together.
We also love “Peace”

This post is part of our special coverage Myanmar's Rohingya.

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