“You don’t have any other society where the educated classes are so effectively indoctrinated and controlled by a subtle propaganda system – a private system including media, intellectual opinion forming magazines and the participation of the most highly educated sections of the population.
Such people ought to be referred to as “Commissars” – for that is what their essential function is – to set up and maintain a system of doctrines and beliefs which will undermine independent thought and prevent a proper understanding and analysis of national and global institutions, issues, and policies.” — From Language and Politics, Noam Chomsky
The headless body of a Rohingya Muslim man has been discovered days after he spoke to reporters about the unrest in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The family of the victim had raised concerns after he spoke to Burmese journalists about attacks on security forces (Official Report). Myanmar’s Rakhine province has been under total lockdown for over two months now since militants attacked security posts. The man had spoken to reporters about army repression and how local villagers had been involved in the attack. Amnesty International has accused Burmese security forces of rape, murder and torture in Rakhine, home to world’s most persecuted minority group, the Rohingya Muslims.
Media persons trying to cover the news are scared of more violence erupting post their interactions with the Rohingya Muslims and local Villagers.
There is nobody to take a stand.
More than 30,000 Rohingya Muslims have already fled and thousands of stateless Rohingya Muslims are trying to reach Bangladesh amid reports of abuse by the Burmese army. A United Nations official was recently quoted saying that Myanmar’s western Rakhine (formerly Arakan) State has been witness to Burmese authorities carrying out a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims with military atrocities continuing in the garb of combating Islamic militants in the region. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are fleeing the country and entering into Bangladesh to save their clan from getting extinct.
The alleged charges against the Burmese army are very serious – rape, mass slaughter, burning entire villages and loot, all extremely serious human rights violations. However Bangladesh has not labelled the Rohingyas as refugees and the Bangladeshi establishment is drafting policies to stop the Rohingyas from entering their borders.
The 1.1 million Rohingyas are viewed as one of the worlds’s most persecuted minorities. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been crossing the border for decades to seek refuge in one of several refugee camps near Cox’s Bazaar, a major population centre. However moves to staunch the flow of these migrants continue by the Bangladesh government.
In 1962, after General Ne Win’s Coup, the condition of the Rohingyas worsened. Win’s policy of “Myanmarisation” or racial purity of the Bama ethnic group led to increasing tortures on the Rohingyas. The Burma Citizenship Law (1982), was passed during the Ne Win period wherein the Rohingyas were not listed as one of the country’s 135 “national races” entitled to Burmese citizenship.
The Rohingyas are considered to be illegal immigrants by Bangladesh and there is serious resistance to the Rohingyas mixing with the extant Bangladesh demography.
Aung San Suu Kyi who is considered as the democratic face of Myanmar, has made few statements on the crisis. This is indicative of the tenuous hold on a semblance of democracy that she is maintaining. It is an acknowledged fact that the transition to a democratic set up has been more lip service than anything else, and Suu Kyi is well aware of how quickly things could revert to the earlier military ‘junta’ that ruled over Myanmar for decades and still maintain a stranglehold over politics in the country. The military still controls the key Ministries of Home Affairs, Border Affairs and Defence with activists like Suu Kyi playing minor roles in decision making processes. Owing her well known public persona, it is convenient to keep her as the facade for international interactions such as those with President Obama. This gives a tinge of legitimacy to the state of affairs in Myanmar today, which was under crippling sanctions by the international community during the rule of the military junta.
Theorizing Mediatized Conflict as in the case of Rohingya Muslims is an arduous task since there is a very thin line between fact and fiction shown on television news these days. With the commercialisation of the broadcast industry and the entry of corporate houses in mainstream media world, profit making and not ethical news reporting has become the new motive.
Profits are made through sensationalism for which often catchy headlines and news production with images, animations and dramatic recreation of events are used for higher TRP’s. This negative role of media today however is a new characteristic feature of the news industry. Ethical journalism has been replaced by sensational breaking news and exclusive phenomenon.
But the media often referred to as the fourth estate is a powerful tool that can bring about great revolutionary changes in the society.
Conversely, as is evident from the case of beheading cited above, the media’s reach can negatively impact a sensitive society such as Myanmar, with instant reprisals coming forth to the already beleaguered Rohingya community. It is this inherent fear that is stopping the Rohingya Muslims from interacting with the reporters.
In a bid to legitimize its actions in the international media the Burmese authorities have labelled the Rohingyas as jihadists. With increasing focus on the radical Islamic threat in the west, this is a subtle subterfuge to shift the pivot of media attention from the serious humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingyas; being denied food, medical aid and the right to live in dignity in the conflict torn zone, the Rohingyas are staring at extermination in the presence of a couldn’t care (or wouldn’t care) less world.
In a world torn by conflicts perceived as much more serious and apocalyptic, it seems the plight of the Rohingya Muslims has taken a back burner. When reporting from a conflict zone results in barbarous beheadings, then it is high time the world stood up and took notice of what is going on. Highlighting the case of the downtrodden still remains an important facet of media reporting. When their actions result in such extreme reactions, it becomes imperative to do something about it.