BBC Burma pulls Myanmar TV deal over Rohingya ‘censorship’

A screengrab from a BBC video shows a Myanmar soldier beating a Rohingya boy at a village in the restive state of Rakhine. BBC on Monday said it was pulling out a broadcasting deal with the Myanmar National TV because of the popular television channel's “censorship” of coverage of the Muslim Rohingya minority. (BBC video via YouTube)
Updated 04 September 2017
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BBC Burma pulls Myanmar TV deal over Rohingya ‘censorship’

YANGON: The BBC’s Burmese language service on Monday said it was pulling a broadcasting deal with a popular Myanmar television channel citing “censorship” as the two partners clashed over coverage of the Muslim Rohingya minority.
The announcement is the latest blow to struggling press freedoms in the country and a remarkable turnaround for a news organization that famously kept Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi up to date during her long years of house arrest under junta rule.
Since April 2014, BBC Burmese broadcast a daily news program on MNTV with 3.7 million daily viewers.
On Monday the BBC said it was ending the deal after MNTV pulled multiple programs since March this year.
“The BBC cannot accept interference or censorship of BBC programs by joint-venture TV broadcasters as that violates the trust between the BBC and its audience,” a report on the BBC’s Burmese website said.
The BBC statement did not detail what content was censored.
But in a statement MNTV, a joint venture between private and state media, said it began pulling reports to comply with government orders over “restricted” words.
“The BBC Burmese program sent news that included wordings that are restricted by the state government,” the statement said.
A station official said the problematic word was “Rohingya.”
“That’s why we cannot broadcast their service,” the employee said, asking not to be named.
The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s western Rakhine who face severe state-sanctioned persecution and have fled in droves in recent years.
Most international media call them Rohingya because the community has long self-identified that way.
But Myanmar’s government — and most local media — call them Bengalis, portraying them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh despite many living in the country for generations.
Last week Suu Kyi’s government called on media to only refer to militants as “extremist terrorists.”
While local media have largely complied, the order was reminiscent of the years under the junta when the press was ordered what to write.
Hopes had been high that the new government of democracy icon Suu Kyi would usher in an era of free speech when they took power last year after half a century of military rule.
Suu Kyi was confined for years to a lakeside Yangon house under the junta but used to listen to the World Service and its Burmese language offshoot on her radio.
Yet since coming to power in landslide elections, her civilian-led government has frequently clashed with the media over their coverage.
Defamation prosecutions have also soared, increasingly targeting social media satirists, activists and journalists.
A major bone of contention with foreign media is coverage of Rakhine state, which has been under an army crackdown since a small group of Rohingya militants attacked police border posts last October.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh while smaller numbers of Buddhist refugees have headed in the opposite direction.
The UN believes the military’s response to the militant attacks in Rakhine may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
Suu Kyi’s government have denied reports of atrocities, refusing visas to UN officials charged with investigating the allegations.
They have frequently condemned international media coverage and blocked press access to much of the war-torn region.


Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

Updated 14 min 46 sec ago
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Modi secures a second five-year term with landslide win in Indian elections

  • Narendra Modi becomes first Indian prime minister in 40 years to return to power with a majority
  • Election results are a big blow to Rahul Gandhi-led opposition Congress party

NEW DELHI: India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday scored a landslide election victory, increasing its seats in Parliament after a bitter and divisive campaign.

The results amount to a massive blow for the 133-year-old Congress Party, which dominated India’s political life for more than 50 years after the country gained independence in 1947. Narendra Modi has made history by becoming India’s first prime minister in the last 40 years to be re-elected with a parliamentary majority.

The BJP on its own is expected to have a little over 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (lower house), more than it had in the outgoing chamber. The ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP is a part, will have nearly 350 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress Party is expected to finish with just 55 seats, albeit 11 more than its 2014 election tally. By most projections, the Congress-led opposition alliance will not even have 100 seats. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi suffered a major personal setback in the family borough, the constituency of Amethi in northern India, where he lost to a Modi Cabinet minister. But Gandhi won his second seat in Wayanad in the south by a big margin. 

“I concede defeat and congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi for winning the elections,” Gandhi said on Thursday. He has offered to resign from his post in his party’s most powerful organizational body, the Congress Working Committee, but political analysts say it is highly unlikely that his resignation will be accepted.

The margin of the BJP’s victory has come as a surprise to many, with the party not only retaining its seats in the battleground states of northern and western India, but also expanding its footprint in two eastern states: West Bengal and Odisha. “Together, we’ll build a strong and inclusive India. India wins yet again!” Modi tweeted after the results showed the BJP sweeping to victory.

Shashi Shekhar, a New Delhi-based political analyst, told Arab News: “This is a phenomenal election victory that has stumped all the pollsters. The BJP was expected to face a big challenge from the opposition alliance in some of the crucial states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra, which together account for 128 seats. But it seems the narrative of muscular nationalism propagated by the BJP overcame all challenges. There’s a now a genuine fear that if the BJP continues with its old policy of marginalizing religious minorities, India might turn into a majoritarian state. However, I hope Modi’s second term turns out to be more inclusive.”

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, a Mumbai-based political commentator, said: “The Congress Party failed to capture the imagination of the people. The party’s slogans didn’t click with voters the way the BJP’s did.”

Against this backdrop of an imminent decisive win, Modi began to receive messages of congratulations from world leaders on Thursday. Among them was Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. “I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia,” Khan tweeted.

In his second term, in addition to addressing economic problems at home, Modi will need to keep a close eye on relations with neighboring Pakistan. Bilateral relations remain tense months after they came close to war following a deadly attack in Indian-administered Kashmir on paramilitary soldiers, and an Indian air raid deep inside Pakistan.

“There’s no alternative to dialogue,” said Kulkarni. “We should expect that with a renewed mandate (for Modi’s government), there should be a fresh attempt to engage with Islamabad.”