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
0

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.


More than 100 China experts urge China to release Canadians

In this file photo an undated picture released on December 11, 2018 in Washington by the International Crisis Group shows former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. (AFP)
Updated 16 min ago
0

More than 100 China experts urge China to release Canadians

  • More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed

TORONTO: More than 100 academics and former diplomats are calling on China to release two Canadians who have been detained in apparent retaliation for the arrest of a top Chinese tech executive in Canada.
The letter by a wide array of China experts from around the world is addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping. It says the arrests of the two Canadians sends a worrisome signal to those who work in policy and research in China.
China detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and Canadian entrepreneur Michael Spavor on Dec. 10 in an apparent attempt to pressure Canada to release Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested Dec. 1 at the request of US authorities.
Meng is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei and the daughter of its founder. The US wants her extradited to face charges that she committed fraud by misleading banks about Huawei’s business dealings in Iran.
The letter, released Monday, notes Kovrig is a former diplomat who was working as an expert on Asia for the International Crisis Group think tank. It notes that Spavor devoted his time to building relationships between North Korea and China, Canada and United States.
It praises Kovrig and Spavor as bridge-builders between China and the world and said their arrests make writers “more cautious” about traveling to China.
“Meetings and exchanges are the foundation of serious research and diplomacy around the world, including for Chinese scholars and diplomats,” the letter says. “Kovrig and Spavor’s detentions send a message that this kind of constructive work is unwelcome and even risky in China.”
The letter said the arrests will lead to “less dialogue and greater distrust, and undermine efforts to manage disagreements and identify common ground. Both China and the rest of the world will be worse off as a result.”
More than 20 diplomats from seven countries and more than 100 scholars and academics from 19 countries signed.
Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, signed the letter and noted it comes as Canada is working to rally international support for the case.
“It will be noticed in Beijing and I hope that it will make clear for them that the arrests of Kovrig and Spavor are not only a China-Canada problem but it’s also having an impact on the image of and reputation of China,” Saint-Jacques said. “It’s an impressive list.”
The signatories include former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans and Chris Patten, former British governor of Hong Kong. Two former US ambassadors to China, Gary Locke and Winston Lord, also signed.
David Mulroney, another former Canadian ambassador to China, said the letter is significant because it shows the international breadth of support for the two men.
“This isn’t simply a Canada-China dispute,” Mulroney said. “A lot of serious people, including many who have spent years working in China, are worried about how it is closing itself off, and punishing those who seek to understand and interpret it for others.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he encourages friends and allies around the world to point out that all countries should stand up for the rule of law.