The Rohingya are an ethic group based largely in South Asia and Southeast Asia, with a large majority living in Myanmar. They speak their own language, and predominantly practice Islam, and are recognized by the UN as among the most persecuted ethnic groups in the world.
Ethnic violence involving the Rohingyas has risen in recent years in the western part of Myanmar. Riots erupted as Rohingyas were accused by hardline Buddhist groups of fomenting violence in the country. The clashes displaced thousands of Myanmar residents, mostly Rohingyas, who are now living in refugee camps.
Unfortunately for the Rohingyas, domestic opinion in Myanmar is unfavorable. Even supposedly pro-democracy opposition leaders have remained silent over the persecution experienced by many Rohingyas.
Despite a growing peace movement in the country, racial hatred towards the Rohingyas has not abated. There is a need to promote a better understanding about the situation of the Rohingyas and should include an appeal to end violence and discrimination directed towards the Rohingyas.
One group documenting the plight of the Rohingyas is the independent media channel Rohingya Vision. We conducted an e-mail interview with Muhammad Noor, Managing Director and one of the organisation's founders about their work and the challenges they face.
What is the goal of Rohingya Vision?
The aim of RVision is to educate and train the Rohingya youth and intellectuals on various Rohingya issues related to history, geopolitics, Burmese policies, international affairs and political analysis. Within the last two years we can proudly say that Rvision has become the most successful and largest Rohingya media in the Rohingya community.
The group decided to focus on videos because most Rohingyas are not able to read or write. In order to reach a bigger audience, they use the spoken Rohingya language in producing their videos.
Rohingya Vision has correspondents across the state of Arakan who gather daily news in Rohingya, Burmese, and English languages. One of its popular programs is the 360 Degree talk show with MD Noor, which is considered as Myanmar’s first political talk show in the Rohingya Language. The program aims to educate the public by featuring Rohingya leaders and their activities.
A recent newscast from 17 March, 2013:
But aside from covering political issues, Rohingya Vision also has programs that tackle religion and traditional culture. It features Qur'an translations in the Rohingya language. It also highlights traditional Rohingya food, music, and even wedding rituals. MD Noor cites a few examples:
During weddings, Rohingya elders are singing a song called HONLA. A dish called DURUSKOORA is specially cooked by a mother-in-law for her son-in-law. When a daughter is pregnant, a mother cooks and sends some a special food called HAADI.
How do you pursue your media work amid the generally unfavorable opinion against the Rohingya inside Myanmar?
Unfortunately, majority of the people in Burma [Myanmar] is totally in the dark with regard to the government’s internal policy towards the Rohingyas. There is one sided hatred, racial profiling, faking of history and sponsoring of ethnic cleansing and genocidal activities. They are fuelling and feeding false information to the rest of Burma so that everyone hates Rohingya. Ultimately, their genocidal objective become easier to accomplish.
Slowly, RVision is able to tell the other side of the story so that people can understand the Rohingya point of view. Through our efforts, we hope to change the Burmese perception of the Rohingyas. But it is a 60-70 year-old issue and it will take time and tremendous energy to arrive at a solution.
Are you concerned that the safety of some of the contributors may be compromised by the work you do? How do you address this?
We are strict with security and we adopt very high security measures to ensure the safety of our contributors and supporters. Even our studio news anchor has no idea about the source of our information; it is completely handled and verified by different parties outside our studio. Such security measure is needed because, for the last one year we have a confirmed lead that many people were arrested and harassed by Burmese authorities because they were suspected of being RVision reporters. In some cases, people have been fined for watching RVision talk shows and news program. We also have a report that local authorities and intelligence agencies are closely monitoring RVision activities to the extent that they translate our Rohingya language programs […]
The plight of the Rohingyas is not necessarily well known around the world. What techniques do you use to spread information to new places and people?
We are fully aware that what we are doing now is not enough because we are limited by resources such as manpower, finance, contacts etc. but still our small scale network of supporters is strategically placed in many countries such as Burma, Saudia Arabia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Through this network, we do campaigning on the ground level to introduce the issue; at the same time we are trying to expand our media cooperation initiatives. From time to time, we organize or take part in seminars and conferences to explain the plight of the Rohingyas around the world.
Myanmar is embarking on a historic democratic transition, but this process is continually undermined by ethnic violence and lingering impact of the Junta dictatorship. To achieve lasting peace and justice, it is important for Myanmar to recognize the suffering of its ethnic citizens. Through media groups such as the Rohingya Vision, it is hoped that there will be more initiatives that promote dialogue and understanding between the Rohingyas and other ethnic groups of Myanmar.