International media - Community radio serves Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar
A Bangladeshi community radio station is servicing the needs of Rohingya refugees in the coastal city of Cox's Bazaar. Radio Naf employs both Rohingyas and local Bangladeshis to produce content that helps refugees live in the camps. And in those where there is no radio reception, listener clubs play the broadcasts.
Radio Naf is a Bangladeshi community radio that started focusing on the needs of Rohingya refugees in August 2017, following the massive influx of people that poured into south-eastern Bangladesh, fleeing genocide in Myanmar.
There are now over a million Rohingya refugees in some 27 camps in Cox’s Bazaar.
There was a dire need to channel reliable information about life in refugee camps to the Rohingya in a language they could understand read by people they could relate to. They needed to know how to access food distribution, medicine, shelter, and other such basic information.
“Community radio is a concept to develop programmes by the community, for the community and with the community,” says Mohammad Rashidul Hasan, Programme Coordinator of Radio Naf, who is also known as Mr Rashed.
Radio Naf, which has been around since 2011, uses Chittagonian dialect, understood by both the local Bangladeshi community and the Rohingyas to broadcast news and programmes to help the refugees.
The radio also employs both Rohingya and Bangladeshi journalists; it works with 35 volunteers with an additional 12 based in six Rohingya refugee camps.
Bringing the radio to the listeners
The various camps sprawled out in Cox’s Bazaar do not all catch radio reception, so Radio Naf set up 22 listener clubs where the programmes are broadcast to a mixed group of 20 men, women, youth and elderly people, who are then instructed to share the information with people in their household and neighbourhood.
There are also five information hubs in five different camps, which not only provide information about what is made available to the refugees but also take down their problems and complaints before channelling them to the appropriate organisation.
“If they have any complaints, like gender-based violence or something like that, we at once refer this to the camp management committee and sometimes to the relevant NGOs,” says Mr Rashed.
Aid for the Rohingya refugees come from all quarters: an array of NGOs, various United Nations organisations, the government of Bangladesh and so on but the refugees are not always aware of the kind of support made available for them. And this where Radio Naf fills in the gap.
“We [recently] relayed information from [UN children's fund] Unicef about cholera vaccination,” Mr Rashed reports.
Radio Naf produces programmes on an array of issues such as health, shelter, water and sanitation, food distribution, child protection.
Some of them aim to educate the refugees.
The massive arrival of Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazaar led to deforestation of the region. Programmes on the environment are designed to help the refugees understand the importance of preserving the environment and how to cook food without destroying the forest.
“There are a lot of children and the camps have no boundaries,” says Mr Rashed to outline some of the contents of programmes on child protection. "Children they go here and there. This is how they might get lost. Or they can be trafficked also. This is why every mother should keep [an] eye on the children and the children also should know where they can move in the camp."
Radio Naf uses various formats to broadcast its reports addressing the Rohingyas' concerns.
Radio drama is one of them and it is quite popular among listeners. In one play, the actors explain what to do in the eventuality of a cyclone – the region is prone to such disasters – as the shelters in the camps are often made of bamboos and tarpaulin.
From a small radio for the fishing community of Teknaf, Radio Naf has developed into a broadcaster/information vector for a population deeply affected by humanitarian disaster.
Follow Radio Naf 99.2 FM on Facebook
Follow Zeenat Hansrod on Twitter @zxnt
Sound editor: Alain Bleu
International media - Press freedom opens up in Malaysia, racial diversity stalls in US media
Journalists who exposed Malaysian corruption and paid the price have begun reporting freely since the 9 May election that toppled prime minister Najib Razak. While press freedom may be improving in Kuala Lumpur, racial diversity has some way to go in US newsrooms, a report says.
Before this month's general election, stories of state graft in Malaysia wre difficult to publish in the Malaysian media.
Razak's government went to great lengths to stifle scrutiny of the embezzlement of billions of dollars from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded by Najib.
“The whole thing is that now we can report without fear or favour," Kamles Kumar, a journalist with the publication Malaysian Insights, told RFI.
The shock defeat of Najib's National Front coalition, putting an end to the 60 year-rule of his party, Umno, and its allies, stunned the nation.
The result brought the opposition Hope Alliance to power and Najib's former boss, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohammed badk to the prime minister's office.
For Kumar, Rajib's loss could be a gain for press freedom.
"I work for a news portal. We were the ones pushing for issues like 1MDB, donations into the ex-prime minister’s account to be covered, and now the whole media fraternity is reporting everything that we were reporting before and it’s very much a welcome change,” he said.
The scandal was a key reason why voters dumped Rajib on 9 May.
Mahathir promises press freedom
"I remember doing the whole week of campaigning during the elections," Trinna Leong, Malaysia correspondent for the Singapour outlet Straits Times, told RFI.
"I was in this one state called Johor, and I was very shocked. People who are traditionally supporters of the National Front decided at the last moment to switch and support the Hope Alliance, because they’re just so fed up with corruption and the cost of living, and these two things are linked.”
Najib is accused by the US Department of Justice of personally pocketing 681 million dollars (581 million euros) looted from a Malaysian government agency.
Not only has the Pakatan Harapan government of Mahathir Mohamad pledged a full independent investigation into the billions of embezzled funds but Mahathir has also promised to ease restrictions on the press.
Previously, the Malaysian government had pushed through restrictions on free speech, including punishing individuals for spreading fake news.
"The fact that that bill was drafted in two months, drafted and passed in two months was madness," comments Leong, who welcomes plans by Malaysia's new Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo to repeal the law.
"Of course it's good news," she said. "There is a desire to get rid of it because the new government has to show that they are going to fulfil their promises and this is one of the things that they promised to do."
Meanwhile, for journalists like Kamles Kumar the new measures are a step in the right direction. His publication, Malaysian Insights, previously known as the Malaysian Insider, was suspended under the former government.
“We were under pressure from the previous administration, to kind of sort of ease off on our reporting and lay back, but then my bosses are equally as rebels so they’re like ‘You know what, you can shut us down online but we will come out with an app and we will try to find a loophole in your system'."
They did that by devising an app called Malaysia Decides to avoid government clampdown.
Media diversity stalls in America
While the media landscape in Malaysia may be opening up, elsewhere in America, newsrooms remain shut to journalists of colour and women, according to a new study released in the Harvard Kennedy School.
"Race and gender in the newsroom are extremely problematic and it shapes the coverage we get and makes it worse," lead author Farai Chideya told RFI.
Since 1978 diversity numbers have only increased from 12 to 17 per cent.
As part of her research, Chideya interviewed an African-American reporter whose parents had lost their home in the mortgage crisis of 2008.
Chideya explains that because of the lack of journalists of colour, many newsrooms missed the mark in their coverage of the mortgage crisis.
It affected black and Latino homeowners particularly, "but because they're not covered in the press consistently, the unethical practices of banks to generate profit" went unreported, she explains.
"I argue that if there was media equity in coverage, we might not have got into the full blown mortgage crisis."
Chideya reached out to 15 news organisations asking for race and gender breakdowns, specifically of newsrooms’ 2016 political reporting teams. She heard back from four of them, in a sign of their unease in discussing diversity.
"Journalism sees itself as a protector of freedom in the United States but, when it comes to the business workings of American media corporations, you often find that the dialogue is very constrained and it's constrained by race, gender and wealth," she comments.
To improve some of these barriers, Chideya calls for a better share of power.
"There hasn't been a lot of will in the American newsroom to share power among people who essentially are decision-makers and by that I mean that journalists make the decision everyday about what is considered news. That's power and because it's power people fight over it."
Even if publishers and editors may not care about diversity, Chideya says they should at least be concerned about money and the likelihood of losing their audience share.
"If the news media continues to isolate itself from the growing numbers of Americans of colour, Americans will probably cease to be mainstream news consumers if they don't find value in what is being reported," she said.
International media - Anti-Semitism and censorship make headlines in Europe, Pakistan, Tanzania
British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was forced to defend his stance on anti-Semitism, a question that also attracted headlines in France and Germany this week. While in Pakistan and Tanzania, there were concerns about censorship and Internet freedom.
A Facebook comment posted a few years ago by Corbyn in which he backed an artist that graffitied a wall with Jewish bankers counting their money, is what has reignited the debate on anti-Semitism within the British Labour party.
The Labour leader who had initially supported the mural in the name of free speech, conceded he was wrong to support an "offensive" work.
Labour MP Luciana Berger said last month she was unsatisfied with his response and told lawmakers that under Corbyn anti-Semitism had become "more common place (...) and more corrosive.”
The media was fast to react. Too fast perhaps according to Eline Jeanne, who works with the Media Diversity Institute in the UK.
“I think an issue like this can be sensationalized quite easily, which I think was definitely for some publications what they did," she told RFI.
"One of the things that was kind of forgotten was the broader issue of anti-Semitism in the UK, which I think was kind of a letdown,” she added.
Anti-Semitism as a political weapon
Some of Corbyn's critics, who consider him too left-wing, also accuse him of complacency towards anti-Semitism, in some cases linking the charge to his support for the Palestinian cause. A charge he strongly denies.
His supporters however argue that anti-Semitism is being used as a weapon to discredit him ahead of next month's local elections.
The fact that few outlets mentioned the political context was another oversight, comments Jeanne.
“Definitely the comment Corbyn made should have been brought to light," she says, but questions why the issue is being raised now, when the Facebook comment was posted in 2012. For her, more investigative pieces were needed to identify "the intentions of the person [Luciana Berger] besides wanting to highlight the potential anti-Semitism in the Labour party.”
Wrong language on anti-Semitism
Elsewhere, an anti-Semitic incident grabbed headlines in Germany.
An Israeli wearing a kippa was recently attacked by a Syrian refugee in a trendy neighbourhood of Berlin, with the attacker yelling ‘Jew’ in Arabic. The video went viral.
The attack prompted a strong show of solidarity, but did little to dampen fears among Germany’s Jewish community, who connect hatred of Jews today to that of Europe's past.
Yet covering anti-Semitism isn’t always easy, particularly when it comes to language, explains Eline Jeanne from the Media Diversity Institute.
“Often we see people using anti-Semitic language either in their headlines or in the way they explain things without even realizing it," she said, in reference to a recent article on Hungarian businessman George Soros.
"The headline used, alluded to him as being a puppeteer, which definitely has anti-Semitic backgrounds, but I think the journalist didn’t intentionally do that," she said.
To report the issue well, Jeanne says journalists need "more time" and education about what anti-Semitism is and isn't. "We also need to give Jewish community members a voice as well," she added.
Narrowing the debate
"We never hear from those who are concerned," Jean-Yves Camus, Director of the Observatory of Radical Politics in Paris, said.
"I mean the average Jew living in a small town or in a suburb of Paris, the media don’t go there,” he told RFI.
The French capital, which has seen a string of killings of Jews, was recently hit by another anti-Semitic attack, this time against an elderly Jewish woman, prompting thousands to march in her memory, together with a manifesto signed by 300 intellectuals denouncing what they call a new anti-Semtism, inspired by radicalized Islamic minorities.
“I’m very scared that the situation is only in the hands of a few intellectuals who sign manifestos and go on TV shows to tell their appreciation of what’s going on," reckons Camus, who warns against a media bias.
The other danger is narrowing the conversation to reflect just one opinion, in this case that new anti-Semitism is the fault of Muslims. Camus says, that’s not the full story.
“It’s very difficult to find dissident voices. Those who are in the minority--I belong to them--have a very hard time finding ways to have the mainstream media listen to what they have to say.”
Dubious deal in Pakistan
In Pakistan, news outlets like Geo TV have also been finding it hard to have their say. The station, which is critical of the military, was recently shut down in most parts of the country. The government denied any responsibility.
However, in a surprise move, Geo TV was put back on, on Thursday 19th April after concluding a deal with the military.
“It’s a very worrying precedent," Daniel Bastard, head of the Asia Pacific desk at Reporters Without Borders told RFI.
"Because if Geo TV wants to be broadcasted, it has to self-censor itself, that’s the message the military wants to send."
Civil society groups in Pakistan say the freedom of the press is increasingly under attack, with the military accused of disappearing activists and journalists.
Last December for instance, 40-year-old Raza Khan, a Pakistani political activist, disappeared from his home. Four months on he’s still missing. The consequence is that entire regions are going silent, as news fails to get reported.
Tanzanian bloggers under scrutiny
But should everyone be allowed to report?
In Tanzania, bloggers could soon have to pay a license of up to 1,000 dollars just to be able to post content online.
The government says it wants to protect the East African nation from “lies” being spread online.
“I can see where the government is coming from," Linet Kwamboka, a Mozilla Tech policy fellow in Nairobi told RFI.
"We had the same case in Kenya where the journalists were calling for more responsibility among the bloggers, because the journalist said well, they have to go through school, they’re taught all their ethics, whereas bloggers tend to be more free thinkers, with no regulation or accountability for the stories they put out.”
Critics though are concerned that the government is using the excuse of regulation as a veil for repression.
Last week authorities arrested the country’s top musician – Diamond Platnumz after he posted a video clip of himself playfully kissing a woman on Instagram, which authorities said was indecent.
Internet freedom under threat
Freedom of speech was one of the requirements for a healthy internet, as revealed in a report earlier this month by Mozilla Fox.
"For me, for a healthy Internet, there needs to be decentralization to be able to understand who owns the speech and who’s responsible for what," said Mozilla Tech policy fellow Kwamboka.
"Then the most important thing there needs to be is a lot of privacy and security," she said. "You need to know that you’re in a safe place and not in a battleground every time you go online to express yourself or to be creative."
Tanzania's online regulations follow the arrests of several people charged with "abusing" the president John Magufuli, a euphemism for criticizing him on Facebook and on WhatsApp.
It’s part of a growing trend of African governments trying to control what’s said online. Kwamboka says they’re fighting a losing battle.
“I feel like there needs to be a better approach to this, because this is a battle that neither the government nor the bloggers are going to win,” she said.
Most people agree there needs to be more responsibility on the internet. The question is who should regulate it and how.
International media - What is behind French website Mediapart's success?
Ten years ago, when a group of disillusioned French journalists decided to quit their jobs and start their own independent website, industry watchers were skeptical, as Matthew Kay reports.
They said the public would never pay for news in the age of free information - and their project would fail.
But a decade later Mediapart has become an industry leader - consistently setting the news agenda in France.
Their investigations have unearthed corruption at the heart of French industry, led to the fraud conviction of a former socialist minister and seen ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy place under criminal investigation.
And if that wasn't enough, the website is turns a profit - unique in age of free online news.
Mediapart's publishing editor, Edwy Plenel, explains the site's recipe for success.
International media - Facebook data misuse scandal sparks calls for greater privacy
Trust in social media has hit a new low, following revelations that data of fifty million Facebook users, ended up in the hands of a UK data analysis company, and may have been used to influence Donald Trump's 2016 election and Brexit. Facebook this week announced new measures to protect users' privacy. The scandal has highlighted the challenge facing tech firms in ensuring personal information is not used for profit.
Cambridge Analyica, the company at the heart of the privacy scandal engulfing Facebook, is accused of fraudulently obtaining data from the social media giant and then using it to run election ads on behalf of US president Donald Trump and the Vote Leave campaign in the UK.
"These tech giants are actually using the users' data without their knowing, and what exactly they're using the data for," Arunima Tiwari, a Global Policy Analyst with the Indian research firm R Strategic, told RFI.
"And they are losing the users' trust because of these scams," she said.
A Cambridge academic called Aleksandr Kogan made a 'Test Your Personality' app, and paid users a small fee to get them to download it.
Two hundred and seventy thousand people did, sharing details about themselves, and unknowingly, their friends as well. Fifty million Facebook users in total were targetted. The information was then sold to Cambridge Analytica.
The UK data analysis company vigorously denies the charges levelled against it, but declined RFI's request for an interview.
"It is categorically untrue that Cambrige Analytica has never used Facebook data," Christopher Wylie, the company's former research director, who revealed the scandal, told British MPs on Tuesday 27 March.
"The acquisition using Alexander Kogan's app was the foundational data set of the company," Wylie said.
The scandal has raised disturbing questions about the use of social media in political campaigns.
Facebook insists it had no idea the data taken from its site was being used, but it took months to act and the episode has exposed yet again, its laxity towards privacy, after coming under fire in 2015 for not doing enough to tackle fake news.
"Facebook is in the wrong because they were too lackadaisical about how they treated their users' privacy," reckons Chris Kavanagh, a Cognitive Anthropologist at Oxford, living in Japan.
However, he dismisses reports that the data breach was a hack, saying users granted Facebook permission for a third party app to access their data.
"They made use of a feature that was freely available to any developer on the Facebook platform that applied for it, prior to 2015. Describing it as a breach, suggests that they somehow exploited the system, but in reality they were making use of a feature that tens of thousands of developers use to harvest profile information and that kind of thing," he told RFI.
Emma Suleiman, founder and CEO of a digital PR agency in Paris, agrees.
“To be clear, it's not just Facebook," she told RFI. "Everything you do online is tracked, seen and registered. There are databases all over the world filled with your online life. This data is used for research, analysis, targeted advertising and probably for companies and governments spying on you. Is this a bad thing? It’s there any way but what you make of it is the real question.”
Tiwari for her part, wants better regulation. She says crypted language has enabled tech firms like Facebook to manipulate users.
Need for public awareness
Kavanagh hopes that the scandal will encourage users to be more cautious and to read the small print.
Right now, the terms and conditions are "buried so deep in the settings" that no one knows they can opt out of a third party app and prevent their data being shared by their friends, he said.
A new European law, called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, set to be unveiled on May 25, wants to change that.
"GDPR will grant users greater control of their data," explains Tiwari.
"If any user wants to know what data a company has on them, they can, and have their data deleted," she said.
The outcry has stirred calls for users to disconnect through the hashtag #deletefacebook.
Trust is particularly low in Nigeria, after claims by Wylie that a Canadian-based affiliate of Cambridge Analytica spread violent images in to discredit opponents in the 2007 and 2015 elections.
"The general discussion that we've been having is that people will have to limit the amount of information that they give out online," Nnamdi Anekwe-Chive, director of the research firm Chive-GPS, told RFI.
Despite efforts by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to enhance the privacy of users, Anekwe-Chive says that "people are thinking of ways to limit the amount of data they drop online and curtail the amount of data that is available online."