Myanmar Press: My Boss is in Meeting
By မင္းမင္း | Posted on August 7, 2017
Min Min ၊ Yangon
As a political journalist reside in the western state of Rakhine, where dozens of human rights abuses were committed which has drawn attention from the international communities, I need to take a great extent of careful steps to avoid biases in reporting news.
In Rakhine, the parliament, government, departments, and the administrative power are in the hand of majority ethnic Rakhine population. Muslim minority who called themselves as Rohingya has little freedom of expression. Security officials are looking every steps of a journalist and also they have authority to seize camera from us. They can also restrict freedom of movement to a journalist.
Children were taught and forced to believe in myth that Buddhism and Rakhine are superior to any other religion and ethnicity. Whoever tried to achieve human rights, diversity and equal rights, they targeted them as enemy and saw as betrayer of own people. They want to wipe out whoever refused to accept Rakhine ultra-nationalist idea.
UN, HRW and other rights groups have accused Myanmar of trying to cover up abuses perpetrated by the country’s government forces in the Rakhine state. Freedom of expression is under fire. Journalists have faced a lot of challenges in covering news especially in political arena. There are threats toward journalists but the authorities are not taking any actions against the perpetrators that cause Rakhine reporters to work in a very dangerous atmosphere.
In Rakhine state, “What is your ethnicity? What is your Religion” is a question that almost every journalist will heard when he or she tried to interview a person including parliament representative, regional government official and even CSOs. I must say “Of course, I’m a Rakhine Buddhist”; otherwise I won’t get the interview. Then, interviewee will ask “You are Rakhine, so you will know what I want to say. Don’t you?” Sometime they blinked an eye because they want journalist to bias towards them. These are all unethical and disappointing for a political journalist.
After various months, we changed our reporting styles. We depend on investigation and research to report news instead of interviewing them. Based on our self-compiled datas, we questioned them but they argued that our datas are not official.
In 3 May 2017, at 7PM, there was siren arose in the town of Sittwe because there was a fire in the Muslim quarter. I tried to reach the official to report the news but he said “State Counselor’s Office Facebook page will release a report, wait for it. If you report yourself, there will be unwanted consequences.”After few hours, like he said, State Counselor’s Facebook page released a report. It is said that overheated solar plates could have been the cause of a fire. Next day, owner of the house was arrested and journalist can’t go to the Muslim quarter to report that news.
Under the Aung San Su Kyi’s led government, we have no choice but to rely on the information released by the Counselor’s Facebook page in most circumstances. When journalist asks authorities about something, they only reply with the information provided by Counselor’s office and they won’t answer other than it. When journalist report news based on investigation and research, they were targeted by the government. As a result media agencies and journalists faced with oppression and discrimination.
When a political journalist based in Rakhine state tried to interview parliament representative, government department, CSO and nationalist politician, the replies are “he/she is in a meeting”, “he/she is on a trip” etc. These are the words that a political journalist heard in daily life.
Note: The article was published in the Taz.de, German Daily Newspaper on July 12 2017.