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.


UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

Updated 34 min 34 sec ago
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UK Cabinet to meet after Britain, EU reach draft Brexit deal

LONDON: Negotiators from Britain and the European Union have struck a proposed divorce deal that will be presented to politicians on both sides for approval, officials in London and Brussels said Tuesday.
After a year and a half of stalled talks, false starts and setbacks, negotiators agreed on proposals to resolve the main outstanding issue: the Irish border.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said the Cabinet would hold a special meeting Wednesday to consider the proposal. Its support isn’t guaranteed: May is under pressure from pro-Brexit ministers not to make further concessions to the EU.
Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries are also due to hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.
May told the Cabinet earlier Tuesday that “a small number” of issues remain to be resolved in divorce negotiations with the European Union, while her deputy, David Lidington, said the two sides are “almost within touching distance” of a Brexit deal.
Britain wants to seal a deal this fall, so that Parliament has time to vote on it before the UK leaves the bloc on March 29. The European Parliament also has to approve any agreement.
Negotiators have been meeting late into the night in Brussels in a bid to close the remaining gaps.
The main obstacle has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the UK’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit.
Irish national broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement involves a common customs arrangement for the UK and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks.
But May faces pressure from pro-Brexit Cabinet members not to agree to an arrangement that binds Britain to EU trade rules indefinitely.
May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.
If there is no agreement soon, UK businesses will have to start implementing contingency plans for a “no-deal” Brexit — steps that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services outside Britain.
Even with such measures in place, the British government says leaving the EU without a deal could cause major economic disruption, with gridlock at ports and disruption to supplies of foods, goods and medicines.
On Tuesday, the European Commission published a sheaf of notices outlining changes in a host of areas in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They point to major disruption for people and businesses: UK truckers’ licenses won’t be valid in the EU, British airlines will no longer enjoy traffic rights, and even British mineral water will cease to be recognized as such by the EU.
The EU said Tuesday it was proposing visa-free travel for UK citizens on short trips, even if there is no deal — but only if Britain reciprocates.
“We need to prepare for all options,” EU Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans said. On a deal, he said: “We are not there yet.”
Meanwhile, official figures suggest Brexit is already having an impact on the British workforce.
The Office for National Statistics said the number of EU citizens working in the country — 2.25 million— was down 132,000 in the three months to September from the year before. That’s the largest annual fall since comparable records began in 1997.
Most of the fall is due to fewer workers from eight eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Jonathan Portes, professor of economics at King’s College London, said the prospect of Brexit “has clearly made the UK a much less attractive place for Europeans to live and work.”