A refugee camp - tents and people.

Media and Information in the Rohingya Crisis

September 26, 2017
Lack of information, misinformation, and outright propaganda have driven the conflict, raising tensions on all sides, stoking rumors, emboldening extremist elements, and masking atrocities.

A recent Internews assessment examines the information dimensions of the ethnic and religious persecution and violence in Mynamar’s Rahkine state.

There is no accessible Rohingya language media, leaving the Rohingya population of up to 1.5 million, now spread between Myanmar and Bangladesh, reliant on information only available in languages other than their own. Trust levels in Rakhine and Burmese language outlets are, unsurprisingly, extremely low. Insensitive and inflammatory reporting by some Bangladeshi news organizations, describing refugees fleeing violence as intruders or worse, feeds prejudice and dehumanizes refugees.

Further exacerbating this situation, access to northern Rakhine is highly restricted, including for humanitarian actors and journalists, making it extremely difficult for outside sources - such as international media - to provide useful or practical information for affected communities on the ground.

Within this vacuum Rohingya communities are forced to rely on word-of-mouth. These trust networks extend beyond face-to-face communication, however, and although connectivity is limited, information (and misinformation) is effectively spread through mobile and social media.

Platforms such as Facebook and Viber are popular, as are politicized YouTube and streaming sites such as Rohingya Vision, which operates out of Malaysia. These networks provide an invaluable resource, but at the same time spread dangerous rumors and misinformation.

Internews seeks to raise awareness of the information dimensions of this crisis and to support solutions to establish reliable information for those affected.

Read the Internews’ assessment.

(Banner photo: By DFID - UK Department for International Development [CC BY-SA 2.0})