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Malaysian Studio Specializes in News for Stateless Rohingya

In Ampang, a high-rent district in Kuala Lumpur, a studio and newsroom of a Rohingya-run operation churn out online broadcasts about dramatic developments in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for an audience of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and beyond.

Because access for journalists to Rakhine, the home of the stateless ethnic group, is tightly controlled by Myanmar’s government, Rohingya Vision TV as it calls itself relies on a network of dozens of anonymous local stringers and sources to feed it information and images about the news there, said Muhammad Noor, the channel’s managing director and co-founder.

“We think that we can’t wait for international media to come and ask for our stories. We need to have our own media so we can tell our version of the story,” the 36-year-old Rohingya, who is based in Kuala Lumpur, told BenarNews.

The five-year-old operation, which disseminates news about goings-on in Rakhine state, southeastern Bangladesh where 1 million Rohingya refugees are concentrated, and other countries, reaches its audience through its own website and social media platforms including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Rohingya Vision TV counts 92,000 subscribers on its YouTube channel alone.

Rohingya Vision TV, which boasts that it is “the world’s first Rohingya TV channel and network,” is one of at least five Rohingya-language news sites operating on YouTube and geared for the Rohingya diaspora, as seen by BenarNews.

On Wednesday, the channel aired its “Rohingya Daily News” program on YouTube, an 11-minute video, which opened with a gleaming opening sequence that cut to an anchor presenting the day’s headlines in the Rohingya language. The video said it was “brought to you by the Rohingya Business Club.”

The Jan. 31 program led with a report about “Buddhist terrorists” allegedly torching more houses in northern Rakhine, followed by a report about Myanmar and Bangladesh saying they had agreed to include the U.N.’s refugee agency (UNHCR) in their bilateral deal to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to Rakhine from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

The day’s news also featured a report about the grand imam of the Baitul Muqadda, otherwise known as the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, distributing relief supplies to refugees during a visit to Cox’s Bazar.

Government officials in Myanmar have rejected widespread allegations from refugees and human rights groups that Myanmar security forces committed large-scale atrocities against Rohingya civilians, although the United Nations and United States branded a military crackdown in Rakhine since August 2017 as “ethnic cleansing.” The crackdown forced at least 655,000 Rohingya to flee from Rakhine to southeastern Bangladesh.

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