Tuesday October 16, 2018

UNICEF calls for full Humanitarian access to Muslim-Majority area in North of Rakhine state in Myanmar

World Food Programme had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence

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FILE - Rakhine Chief Minister Nyi Pu, left, and Myanmar's high ranking military officers return from a trip with a diplomatic mission and United Nations officials to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine State in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
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Yangon (Myanmar), November 9, 2016: Unrest in Myanmar’s northwest is taking a “terrible toll” on children, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said and called for full humanitarian access to the Muslim-majority north of Rakhine state.

Tens of thousands of people have been cut off from food and other aid normally provided by international agencies since the Oct. 9 deadly attacks on police guard posts along the border with Bangladesh.

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“While some aid has been delivered in recent days, UNICEF calls for full resumption of essential services and the urgent lifting of all restrictions of movement of health and other professionals so they can safely reach children and families,” UNICEF said in a statement from New York Tuesday.

Troops have poured into the region in response to the attacks, in which assailants believed to be from the mostly stateless Rohingya group killed nine policemen. The army declared the area an operation zone, blocked aid and barred foreign journalists and observers from the Maungdaw area. Residents and human rights monitors say extra-judicial killings, rape and arbitrary arrests have taken place.

[bctt tweet=”Security forces have killed 33 alleged attackers, while five soldiers and one policeman have been killed in Rakhine State, Myanmar. ” username=””]

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FILE - Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA
FILE – Renata Lok-Dessallien, left, the U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, and British ambassador to Myanmar Andrew Patrick attend a news conference after a trip to the Maungdaw area in northern Rakhine state in Myanmar, Nov. 3, 2016. VOA

On Tuesday, the World Food Programme said it had begun the first deliveries of food aid in Maungdaw in more than a month, reaching about 6,500 people in four villages affected by the violence. WFP said its assistance would normally reach 152,000 people in northern Rakhine.

The majority in the area are Rohingya Muslims, a 1.1 million strong group in Rakhine who face restrictions on their movements and access to services. The malnutrition rate is 19 percent among children younger than 5 in Maungdaw, according to U.N. statistics.

The limited access came after a request from diplomats and the U.N.’s top official in Myanmar, who visited Maungdaw over two days last week. The delegation called for an independent investigation into alleged rights abuses and for aid programs to be allowed to resume.

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U.N. officials and diplomats from Western countries privately expressed concern at the public response to the crisis from the government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has flatly denied allegations of abuses committed by the military.

State-run newspapers have said last week’s visit by diplomats — who stressed they were not able to verify claims of rights abuses — revealed that the allegations were baseless. A key official spokesman singled out a journalist reporting allegations and said the claims were concocted by people with links to insurgents. (VOA)

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Facebook ‘Too slow’ in Fighting Hate Speech in Myanmar

Facebook said it is working with a network of independent organisations to identify hate posts

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Facebook faces $1.63 bn in EU fine over fresh data breach. VOA

The ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been “too slow” to prevent the spread of misinformation and hate speech on our platform, Facebook acknowledged on Thursday.

The admission came after a Reuters investigation on Wednesday revealed that Facebook has struggled to address hate posts about the minority Rohingya, the social media giant said the rate at which bad content is reported in Burmese, whether it’s hate speech or misinformation, is low.

“This is due to challenges with our reporting tools, technical issues with font display and a lack of familiarity with our policies. We’re investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence that can proactively flag posts that break our rules,” Sara Su, Product Manager at Facebook, said in a statement.

According to Facebook, in the second quarter of 2018, it proactively identified about 52 per cent of the content it removed for hate speech in Myanmar.

“This is up from 13 per cent in the last quarter of 2017, and is the result of the investments we’ve made both in detection technology and people, the combination of which help find potentially violating content and accounts and flag them for review,” said Facebook.

Facebook said it proactively identified posts as recently as last week that indicated a threat of credible violence in Myanmar.

“We removed the posts and flagged them to civil society groups to ensure that they were aware of potential violence,” said the blog post.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

In May, a coalition of activists from eight countries, including India and Myanmar, called on Facebook to put in place a transparent and consistent approach to moderation.

The coalition demanded civil rights and political bias audits into Facebook’s role in abetting human rights abuses, spreading misinformation and manipulation of democratic processes in their respective countries.

Besides India and Myanmar, the other countries that the activists represented were Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Syria and Ethiopia.

Facebook said that as of June, it had over 60 Myanmar language experts reviewing content and will have at least 100 by the end of this year.

“But it’s not enough to add more reviewers because we can’t rely on reports alone to catch bad content. Engineers across the company are building AI tools that help us identify abusive posts,” said the social media giant.

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Not only Myanmar, activists in Sri Lanka have argued that the lack of local moderators — specifically moderators fluent in the Sinhalese language spoken by the country’s Buddhist majority — had allowed hate speech run wild on the platform.

Facebook said it is working with a network of independent organisations to identify hate posts.

“We are initially focusing our work on countries where false news has had life or death consequences. These include Sri Lanka, India, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic as well as Myanmar,” said the company. (IANS)