Monday December 16, 2019
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Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months.

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Rohingya, myanmar, violence
An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Bangladesh’s plans to begin repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar Thursday were scrapped because officials were unable to find anyone who wanted to return to the country that has been accused of driving out hundreds of thousands in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The refugees “are not willing to go back now,” Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press. He said officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”

Some people on the government’s repatriation list disappeared into the sprawling refugee camps to avoid being sent home, while others joined a large demonstration against the plan.

Rohingya, myanmar
Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

UN urged a halt to repatriation

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017 to escape killings and destruction of their villages by the military and Buddhist vigilantes that have drawn widespread condemnation of Myanmar.

The United Nations, whose human rights officials had urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation process even as its refugee agency workers helped to facilitate it, welcomed Thursday’s development.

Firas Al-Khateeb, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, said it was unclear when the process might begin again.

“We want their repatriation, but it has to be voluntary, safe and smooth,” he said.

Bangladesh officials declined to say whether another attempt at repatriation would be made Friday.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told reporters in Dhaka late Thursday that “there is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?”

Rohingya, myanmar
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Pleading with Rohingya

At the Unchiprang refugee camp, a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya on Thursday to return to their country over a loudspeaker.

“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.

“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.

Some refugees on the repatriation lists, which authorities say were drawn up with assistance from the UNHCR, said they don’t want to go back.

‘I don’t want to go back’

At the Jamtoli refugee camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not. She said she had never asked to return to Myanmar, and that she had sent her children to a school run by aid workers Thursday morning as usual.

“They killed my husband; now I live here with my parents,” said Setara, who only gave one name. “I don’t want to go back.”

She said that other refugees on the repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers, which on Thursday were bustling with commerce and other activity.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Plan to return 150 a day

Bangladesh had planned to send an initial group of 2,251 back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.

Myanmar officials, speaking late Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, said they were ready to receive the refugees. Despite those assurances, human rights activists said conditions were not yet safe for the Rohingya to go back.

The exodus began after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale, organization and ferocity of the crackdown led the U.N. and several governments to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, viewing them as “Bengalis” who entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.

Rohingya, Myanmar
Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

Refugee camps bleak

The refugees survived the ransacking of villages, rapes and killings in Myanmar, but for many, life in Bangladesh’s squalid refugee camps has been bleak.

The refugees who’ve arrived in the last year joined a wave of 250,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped forced labor, religious persecution and violent attacks from Buddhist mobs in Myanmar during the early 1990s.

Access to education and employment has been far from assured.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in December elections, has repeatedly complained that hosting more than a million Rohingya is taxing local resources.

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months, but plans last January to begin sending refugees back were called off amid concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that their return would be met with violence.

Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

But on Thursday, Pence said that U.S. officials were “encouraged to hear that” the repatriation process would begin.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would continue working with international partners including the U.N. “to ensure that the Rohingya themselves are part of any decisions on their future.” (VOA)

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Americans Tend to Rely on Social Media for News which is often Unreliable: Report

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don't see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources

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Social Media
The findings of a research suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to News sources on Social Media. Pixabay

Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on news platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly social media and peers, says a new report.

The other two-thirds of the public consider their primary news sources trustworthy, mainly print news and broadcast television, according to the report from California-based non-profit RAND Corporation.

“A lack of time and competing demands may explain why a third of Americans turn to news sources they deem less reliable, which suggests improving the quality of news content or teaching people how to ‘better consume’ news isn’t enough to address ‘Truth Decay,'” said Jennifer Kavanagh, senior political scientist and co-author of the report.

“Media companies and other news providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism”.

“Truth Decay” is a phenomenon defined as diminishing reliance on facts, data and analysis in public life.

The report draws from a national survey of 2,543 Americans to examine how reliability, demographics and political partisanship factor into news choices and how often people seek out differing viewpoints in the news.

About 44 per cent of respondents reported that news is as reliable now as in the past, while 41 per cent said it has become less reliable and 15 per cent – mostly women, racial and ethnic minorities and those without college degrees – said it is more reliable.

Social Media
Owing to lack of time and competing demands, one-third of Americans rely on News platforms they acknowledge are less reliable, mainly Social Media and peers, says a new report. Pixabay

Respondents who lean on print and broadcast platforms were more likely to deem them reliable.

Those who rely on social media and peers for news, on the other hand, don’t see those platforms as reliable yet still choose to get their news from these sources.

“The findings suggest that perceived reliability is not the only factor that drives what Americans choose as their go-to news sources,” said Michael Pollard, a sociologist and lead author of the report.
“Despite acknowledging that there are more reliable sources for news, people with demands on their time may be limited to using less reliable platforms.”

Asked whether they ever seek out alternate viewpoints when catching up on the news, 54 per cent said they “sometimes” do, 20 percent said, “always or almost always,” 17 per cent said “infrequently,” and 9 percent said, “never or almost never.”

The report also identified the four most common combinations of news media types consumed by Americans: print publications and broadcast television, online, radio, and social media and peers.

Those who are college-educated were less likely to get their news from social media and peers, instead opting for radio and online sources.

Social Media
Media companies and other News providers may need to provide more easily accessible and digestible ways for individuals to consume high quality investigative journalism, especially on Social Media. Pixabay

Those with less than a college education were more likely to report “never or almost never” seeking out news with alternate viewpoints.

“Those who are married were three times more likely than singles to rate their peers as the most reliable source for news,” said the report.

ALSO READ: Here’s how you can Appear More Competent Through your Clothing

Unmarried people were more likely than married people to report they “always or almost always” seek out sources with differing views. (IANS)