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Journalists Were Taken to Selective Places Only, Say Rohingya Victims

RB News
July 17, 2017

Maungdaw -- "The international journalists were taken only to the selective places by the government", said a number of victims in northern Maungdaw on Saturday (July 15) evening. 

The Myanmar government, under pressure to allow international investigation teams and independent media journalists to give access to northern Maungdaw and other parts of Arakan state severely affected by the so-called 'Region Clearance Operation' since last year, allowed some 18 local and international journalists for the first time to visit the regions on Wednesday (July 12).

While speaking to Reuters, U Thet Swe, a director at the Ministry of Information's News and Periodicals Enterprise, said "there are no restrictions regarding the areas that you can report from. We didn't arrange any 'for show' places for news reporting."

However, something exactly contrary to what he said has happened according to the victims expressing their concern to us.

"We were happy to hear that finally international journalists were allowed to visit our places. But sadly, they were escorted by the Security Forces and taken to the places pre-selected and pre-decided by the government. And they were allowed to  meet and interview the people pre-arranged by the authorities or some families whose members were reported to have been abducted or killed allegedly by the armed rebels.

"They visited quite a few places in Maungdaw and Buthidaung and some villagers talked to them but hardly could anyone open up because the Security Forces tagged along with them. The journalists were not free to visit the violence-hit places on their own either," said a villager in northern Maungdaw. 

After the group of journalists had left the villages in Northern Maungdaw on Saturday, the Border Guard Police attempted to arrest some people that earlier talked to the journalists, reports emerged. 

A local human rights observers group based in Maungdaw commented "although it is being widely said that the journalists have been given free access, they haven't visited the villages severely affected by the violence. Therefore, there are less chances that they will get actual picture of the situation and any concrete evidences on the atrocity crimes committed against the local civilians. 
"They have only seen what the government wanted them to see. Therefore, it's crucial for them they visit the affected villages without the Government Security Forces tagged along with them."

Yesterday on July 16, the group of journalists visited the Thakka Pyin (Sakki Fara) Internally Displaced People (IDP) Camps in Sittwe (Akyab) Township. They have interviewed displaced people on their current situation assuring them that there would be no punitive measures taken against them by the Myanmar Security Forces after their departures.

"The journalists said that the Security Forces wouldn't do anything to us for talking about our situation. But most of us were still afraid and unable to tell them freely," said an internally displaced person at 'Thakkay Pyin' IDP Camps.

[Reports by Rohingya Eye & Saeed Arakani; Edited by M.S. Anwar]

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The Group of Journalists Visiting IDP Camps in Sittwe (Photo: Saeed Arakani)

The Group of Journalists Visiting IDP Camps in Sittwe (Photo: Saeed Arakani)

The Group of Journalists Visiting IDP Camps in Sittwe (Photo: Saeed Arakani)

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