(Commentary) Media Propaganda War on Rakhine’s Conflict; Trust Sinking in Muddy Water

This photo is copied from Global New Light of Myanmar webpage when it wrote AA shot the WFP aid convey  

Sittway. May 1 2020.


Set a level plain field. Compete equally. Accept the result. This is what legitimate game should be in this digital-information age. 

When one side is blacked out, but enjoy itself for open internet access, it is not a fair competition at all. 

Arakan Army has people and skill fighters. Myanmar government has a large army and jet fighters. In addition, the army is backup by the elected government. 

But things are very unfair here.

Recently, Myanmar government steps up for media campaign against AA. They write news on state owned presses, broadcast on TVs, issue statement on different ministry’s webpages. 

Similarly, Tatmadaw is doing the same propaganda campaigns when the local media such as DMG and Narinjara are blocked, prosecuted, and silenced.

Mobile internet access is banned many parts of the townships in northern Arakan.

International journalists are also restricted going out to conflict zones while some Myanmar journalists are charged with terrorism laws for interviewing AA’s spokesperson and its commander on journalistic works of verification and asking for opinions.

Arakan Army Facebook page is deleted. Its leaders personal accounts are closed. The AA information  webpage is barred. 

Why is that? 
Indeed, the media campaign the government launching is to downgrade and discredit AA after it classified the rebel organization as terrorist group. The government wants international community to see AA as a bad organization. 

Hoping to win the war in Arakan, Tatmadaw is using jet fighters, helicopters, navy, artilleries, and ground troops while attacking AA. Results are hundreds of civilians killed and injured including women and children. 

Local based Rakhine media tempted to report these heavy casualties of civilians and collateral damages, but government is not happy. 

The state wants the media to side with them. They persuade it in different forms including intimidation and harassment to report good stories for them. 

Myanmar army Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun always argues with the media during the press conferences Tatmadaw is the only legitimate security force. Arakan Army is an outlawed one he portrays. 

 It is morally inflicting to control media to silence (if) and (when) state is sponsoring state terrorism and conducting state violence. It is in fact the method of police state and dictatorship. 

An example is that very fast and without verification from the adversary, Global New Light of Myanmar--state owned media--wrote news Arakan Army attacked WFP’s relief convoy in Paletwa township in Chin State on April 29. The news said, “About 10,000 metre west of Sami Town, the AA terrorists followed and opened fire on the WFP aid convoy by heavy and small arms.” It went on and said, “After an exchange fires of security force, AA terrorists ran away from the sense.” 

This story was like a Hollywood’s adventure movie clip. The soldiers fired at the AA fighters for a few minutes. Then AAs ran away. No solider was injured nor captured any AA fighter but left only a few gunshots marked on the WFP bannered truck and on the windshield as posted photos showed. 

A few weeks ago, the state media quickly wrote AA shot WHO vehicle near Ramaung Bridge in Minbya township that caused the employee dead and the health worker injured. 

One day later, the same accusation appeared on the state media and said AA shot the truck that was carrying antiseptic solution and killed the driver and wounded another employee near the same location of WHO vehicle got shot. 

AA responded Myanmar army did it all. 

Whenever illicit drugs were seized on Myanmar-Bangladesh borders, the state news went on and accused AA was responsible. But AA said these drugs were brought by Tatmadaw. 

There is popular maxim in Burmese society, ‘ownerless.” They say whenever huge amounts of drug were seized, there was no owner; when someone was killed or rapped from poor family, there was no arrest made. 

This expression shows that trust on law enforcement agencies and the security forces is very low. 

When media asked the army’s spokesperson for civilian casualties, he always replies AA shot them. Sometime army accused all arrested were members of AA before the courts delivered final verdicts. 

What all these seem to be is differences of moral perception and technology foundation. Myanmar leaders may be sticking with the 1990s’ military dictator time mentality. Applying old school propaganda-method they may believe is the best option to maintain their status quo. 

Aside from the officials in Naypaytaw, very insolated location, the latter the young people in Myanmar are kin to explore every piece of information of conflict in Rakhine state, especially when high ranking military offices were killed. They read Facebook, comments, international news, and even use Google search engine. Then they judge it with what they find out from different sources of information and comparison. 

It is more critical scrutiny among young Rakhine academics. They differentiate between propaganda and transparency of news on moral ground. They perceive State can be necessary evil but evil to find the truth and defend the justice. When state reclines its own people with false propaganda, the State becomes a monster. 

It seems the leaders may have forgotten media freedom is essential for the democratic transition.

The best option to restore people trust on state media is restore press freedom and freedom of expression, empower local lawmakers, and help to build strong civil societies. 

0 comments:

Post a Comment