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  • Evening news shows are ignoring ethnic cleansing of one of the world's most persecuted minorities

    The crisis has been mentioned merely three times in the past seven weeks

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    The Myanmar government’s military forces are conducting ethnic cleansing of the country’s Rohingya Muslim population -- an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar -- through systematic violence and expulsion. Facing murder, rape, and now famine, hundreds of thousands have fled the country in recent months. Prime-time cable news and broadcast evening newscasts, however, have been reluctant to cover what the U.N. is calling a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

    National newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as Time magazine and NPR have reported extensively on the state-sponsored “clearance operations” with in-depth analyses and multimedia features devoted to the state-sponsored violence, but broadcast evening newscasts and prime-time cable news shows have been nearly silent on the issue. In a period of nearly two months following a government crackdown and subsequent mass flight of Rohingya from Myanmar into Bangladesh, evening news referenced the crisis a mere three times: in two reports by Fox News and one from ABC’s World News Tonight.

    Of the two reports by Fox News, one, which appeared on the September 21 edition of The Story with Martha MacCallum, exploited the ethnic cleansing to scandalize Hillary Clinton’s past support for Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi -- Myanmar’s de facto civilian leader who has drawn criticism for her failure to denounce the recent violence -- and to praise the response from President Donald Trump’s administration. The other Fox News report, which appeared on the October 10 edition of Special Report, was a 20-second segment in which host Bret Baier garbled the word “Rohingya” and focused on Pope Francis’ response to the violence.

    CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and evening prime-time programming on MSNBC and CNN completely ignored the humanitarian disaster taking place in Myanmar. While CNN International devoted almost 50 segments to the expulsion of Rohingya, none of these reports were re-aired during CNN’s evening programming. Moreover, most reports of Rohingya erasure on CNN International occurred on CNN Newsroom, a program that airs between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.

    While the Trump administration has called for the Myanmar military to cease its campaign against the Rohingya, U.S. officials have stopped short of encouraging a formal resolution condemning the violence or imposing targeted sanctions against the military’s leaders. Additionally, the United States still funds military cooperation with Myanmar. And the Trump administration has placed a ban on refugees from around the world and plans to cap refugee admissions over the next year at 45,000 -- the lowest limit ever. Last year, refugees to the United States from Myanmar, including Rohingya, outpaced arrivals from Syria, a nation that has been embroiled in a civil war for over six years that has displaced millions

    Activists say they are being censored, and local journalists say they are putting their lives on the line in order to expose Myanmar’s crimes against humanity. Cable and broadcast news networks have an opportunity and responsibility to lift up voices of the Rohingya, whose plight is only becoming more desperate amid the news cycle’s continued silence.

                           Dayanita Ramesh and Miles Le / Media Matters

    Methdology:

    Media Matters used Nexis to search transcripts from ABC’s World News Tonight, CBS Evening News and NBC Nightly News and weekday programming between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC from August 24 to October 16, 2017, for mentions of one or more of the following terms: Rohingya, Burma, Myanmar, or Bangladesh. Reports of flooding across South Asia were not included.

  • It’s time to pay attention to Myanmar’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH & MILES LE


    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters 

    Myanmar government forces, under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, are committing genocide against the country’s ethnic Rohingya minority group, the majority of whom are Muslim. The government of Myanmar claims these are “clearance operations” in retaliation for attacks by an insurgent terrorist military group that attacked police outposts, even though experts have found that the insurgents are few in number and poorly equipped.

    The United Nations has called the government of Myanmar’s actions “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” International investigators and reporters have gathered evidence and heard stories of entire villages being burned to the ground, women being gang-raped, and soldiers shooting at Rohingya as they attempt to flee violence. Over half a million Rohingya have fled Myanmar to escape state violence since August 25.

    Right-wing media outlets are portraying this expulsion of the Rohingya as a “refugee crisis,” accusing the Rohingya of posing “a serious security threat” and even trying to justify the government violence as a response to what they refer to as “Islamic terrorism.” But in trying to justify the government’s violent and horrific actions by claiming it’s just a response to terrorism, thI thinkey are ignoring decades of oppression inflicted by the Myanmar state.

    The Rohingya are a stateless minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state; they are not a nationally recognized ethnic group and are not considered citizens of the majority-Buddhist Myanmar. As a result, the Rohingya are systematically barred from jobs, education, medical care, free worship, and open travel, in part due to reactionary ethnic nationalism laws put in place by the military regime that followed British colonialist rule. State laws restrict Rohingya families to two children, with those who break the law imprisoned and their children put on a blacklist. They’re not recognized as citizens, but rather seen as outsiders or intruders, even though many have lived in Myanmar their entire lives.

    Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto civilian Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to denounce her government’s role in, and denied allegations of, ethnic cleansing, despite considerable evidence. She has been long been criticized for her anti-Muslim remarks and outright erasure of the plight of the Rohingya. Her fellow Nobel laureates are condemning her silence, and the Oxford City Council has withdrawn its “Freedom of Oxford” awards.

    The state-sponsored violence targeting the Rohingya has only gotten worse. It’s time to pay attention or the world will continue to miss the telltale signs of genocide.

    Resources for how to help the Rohingya (list via The New York Times):

    BRAC, a group founded in Bangladesh, was ranked the No. 1 nongovernmental organization in the world by NGO Advisor, which cited its adaptive approaches and strong community presence. Of the 350 staff members directly serving the refugee population in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, many are locals who speak a dialect similar to that of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. BRAC has built thousands of latrines, hundreds of tube wells and more than 50 child-friendly spaces and emergency health clinics that see thousands of children and patients every day, according to Emily Coppel and Matt Kertman, spokespersons for the group.

    Action Against Hunger is responding to the Rohingya crisis with hundreds of full-time staff members on the ground in Bangladesh, delivering hot meals and water, according to Elizabeth Wright, a spokeswoman for the group. Health workers are treating malnourished children, while mental health counselors are providing support to refugees suffering from acute stress and trauma. Having been in Bangladesh since 2007, Action Against Hunger is partnering with many local organizations and international groups in distributing food and water.

    Unicef is prioritizing shelter, food and water in its efforts to protect children and women, according to Jean-Jacques Simon, Unicef’s communications chief in Bangladesh. In addition to distributing water daily, the group has plans to install water pumps and deep tube wells in the camps. Malnourished children are receiving therapeutic food and supplements. In a news release on Sept. 17, the group also announced plans to vaccinate 150,000 children against measles, rubella and polio.

    Save the Children has been working in Bangladesh since 1970. In addition to distributing essentials like tents, cooking kits and hygiene kits to the displaced Rohingya, Save the Children is paying special attention to helping children, particularly those who are not accompanied by family members. It says 45 staff members are currently dedicated to the Rohingya response. The number of staff and local partners could be increased to 780 by the end of the year to support long-term aid for these refugees, according to Evan Schuurman, a spokesman for the group.

    Doctors Without Borders (also known as Médecins Sans Frontières) has worked in Bangladesh since 1985. At least 300 staff members are in Cox’s Bazar, treating ailments including severe dehydration, diarrheal diseases, violence-related injuries and cases of sexual violence, according to the group.

    The International Rescue Committee is helping the Rohingya remaining in Rakhine, with 400 staff members and volunteers providing medical care and emergency relief. Sanna Johnson, the group’s regional director for Asia, says its operations are complicated by restrictions from Myanmar’s government, which has banned international nongovernmental organizations from some areas of the state.

    UNHCR, the refugee agency for the United Nations has been working with Rohingya migrants since 1978. Of the UNHCR staff members responding to the most recent crisis, about 150 are in Bangladesh and nearly 30 are in Myanmar, according to Joung-ah Ghedini-Williams, an emergency response coordinator. In addition to distributing emergency aid and shelter materials, the group gives protection and support to unaccompanied children, the elderly and survivors of rape and trauma.

    World Food Program is a United Nations agency that has been distributing high-energy biscuits to migrants as they have arrived in Bangladesh. It will continue to address food scarcity through subsidies in rice and nutritional powder. As of the end of September, 26 staff members were working with NGO partners and support staff in Cox’s Bazar, according to a spokeswoman, Silke Buhr.

  • Fox News' exclusive reporting on Iran nuclear deal echoes pretext for Iraq War

    Blog ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON


    Fox News / Screengrab

    Fox News is promoting a report from an Iranian exile organization that the government in Tehran has restarted nuclear weapons development in violation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump is expected to decertify the deal in coming days, and given his penchant for watching Fox News, it’s possible he will use this report as part of his justification. Fox’s rush to promote the exile group’s claims echoes moves made in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, when “bogus intelligence” provided by politically motivated Iraqi exiles set the pretext for a U.S. invasion.

    An October 10 exclusive article published by FoxNews.com detailed a new report by the exile group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which “asserts that the country’s nuclear weapons program has far from halted.” According to FoxNews.com, “The Iranian Resistance has identified four major sites that ‘with high degrees of certainty’ have been involved in various aspects of the allegedly ongoing nuclear weapons project.” Fox & Friends further promoted the NCRI report during its October 11 episode. Fox contributor Newt Gingrich vouched for the group as “the best source of information inside Iran” and claimed its allegations were “probably right.” Gingrich then used the report as justification for Trump to decertify Iranian compliance with the 2015 nuclear regulatory framework brokered by the Obama administration and five other nations:

    During a later segment, Fox’s Jillian Mele highlighted the report, claiming “it appears [Iran’s] weapons program is fully operational,” adding that the report “shows at least four nuclear development sites have secretly been constructed and used to avoid international inspectors”:

    Fox continued promoting the NCRI report during Happening Now, with co-host Melissa Francis claiming that an “explosive report” demonstrated Iran “already [has] the weapon” and is in violation of its commitments. Conservative national security analyst Michael Singh of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy cautioned that the report had yet to be verified and “is at odds with the findings of our intelligence community,” noting that “you have to take it with a bit of a grain of salt.”

    If true, these allegations from NCRI would demonstrate that the Iranian government is no longer in full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the “Iran nuclear deal,” negotiated between China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Iran to limit the latter’s nuclear weapons capabilities. The report could provide justification for the Trump administration to decertify the Iran nuclear framework, which is widely expected to happen after the president, in a speech at the United Nations last month, called the deal “an embarrassment” to the United States and international community.

    However, there are multiple reasons to question NCRI’s conclusions.

    None of the other nations involved in JCPOA negotiations and enforcement believe Iran is in violation of compliance standards. Indeed, on the same day Fox News published NCRI’s conclusions, British Prime Minister Theresa May personally urged Trump to remain in the deal, which she argued was “vitally important for regional security.” And just one day before that, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reiterated that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA framework, stating "the nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran ... are being implemented." In recent weeks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has pointed to the Iran deal as a workable framework for solving the North Korean nuclear standoff, and her government has reasserted its commitment to preserving international nuclear cooperation on Iran.

    NCRI’s motivations also need to be scrutinized. The group calls itself a “parliament in exile” and was founded in 1981 after losing a power struggle for control of Iran. It acts as an umbrella organization for numerous Iranian dissident and exile groups that stand to benefit from American action against the Iranian government -- including the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), which had previously been designated a terrorist organization.

    Additionally, in many ways, NCRI resembles the Iraqi National Congress (INC) under Ahmed Chalabi, which was formed with the explicit mandate of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Chalabi and the INC supplied the U.S. government with exaggerated and fabricated intelligence in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its leader was richly rewarded after the U.S.-led invasion created a power vacuum in Baghdad for his group to exploit.

    Right-wing media outlets, led by Fox News, always opposed Obama-era diplomatic overtures to Iran and have long advocated that the Iran nuclear deal be dismantled regardless of the facts on the ground. Conservative outlets and personalities have spread lies about the negotiations and enforcement of the deal and now, they may be supplying Trump with the questionable intelligence he needs to formally abandon American diplomatic commitments in Iran.

    This piece was updated with additional information​

  • The imprisonment and execution of gay men in Chechnya has been virtually ignored by evening cable and broadcast news

    Blog ››› ››› BRENNAN SUEN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters
     

    In the four months since The New York Times first reported that authorities in Chechnya “were arresting and killing gay men,” evening cable and evening broadcast news programming has virtually ignored the story. Between April 1 and July 31, there were only three significant mentions in total across six networks -- two news packages and one brief exchange -- about the ongoing human rights abuses.

    On April 1, The New York Times reported that “Chechen authorities were arresting and killing gay men.” Citing independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the Times’ Andrew Kramer wrote that “men were detained ‘in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,’” and that “more than 100 gay men had been detained” so far. The report added that Novaya Gazeta “had the names of three murder victims, and suspected many others had died in extrajudicial killings,” and it noted that authorities posed “as men looking for dates” on social networking sites to lure in victims. Many gay men have fled the region as a result. The Times report quoted a spokesperson for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov who denied the existence of gay people in Chechnya, calling the reports “absolute lies and disinformation.” “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” he said. Kadyrov has since been interviewed for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel by reporter David Scott, and according to The Washington Post, during the conversation, he “laugh[ed] dismissively at questions about the allegations” and said that gay men “are not people”:

    In his interview with Scott, Kadyrov initially laughs dismissively at questions about the allegations. “Why did he come here?” he says to someone off camera. “What's the point of these questions?” But as Scott presses him, Kadyrov talks angrily about the reporters and activists who write about LGBT rights in Chechnya.

    “They are devils. They are for sale. They are not people,” he says. “God damn them for what they are accusing us of. They will have to answer to the almighty for this.”

    A Media Matters analysis of CNN's, MSNBC's, and Fox News’ weekday evening programming from 5-11 p.m. and ABC's, CBS', and NBC’s flagship evening news programs -- both weekend and weekday -- found virtual silence across the networks regarding the abuse of LGBTQ people in Chechnya. There were only three significant mentions of the story across all six networks between April 1 and July 31 and one short exchange in a broader discussion about the United States’ position on human rights around the world.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Over the last four months, CNN was the only cable network to air a full segment dedicated to the subject, as well as one brief exchange during a separate interview. A special April 24 evening edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper aired a package in which reporter Matthew Chance covered the subject. During the May 4 edition of CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, there was also a brief exchange between host Anderson Cooper and guest Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in which Cooper mentioned German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s request to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene and help protect gay people in the country. McCain did not comment on the atrocities in Chechnya specifically during the exchange.

    Of the three broadcast flagship programs, there was no significant mention of Chechnya’s abuses on weekdays. On April 23, however, the Sunday edition of NBC Nightly News devoted a segment to the topic featuring reporter Lucy Kafanov. 

    During the segment on The Lead, host Jake Tapper noted that the story was not “getting enough attention,” and Matthew Chance reported that the journalist who broke the story was “fleeing the country” after she received threats for her reporting. He also said that at least five other reporters at her newspaper have been killed since 2000 “in mafia-style hits.” The package also featured video of a victim speaking out about what Chance described as “horrifying abuse,” detailing the torture by authorities:

    UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They tied wires to my hand and put metal clippers on my ears to electrocute me. When they shock you, you jump high above the ground. [via Nexis]

    NBC’s report also featured interviews with a victim of the abuse in Chechnya, as well as another journalist from Novaya Gazeta. The victim, who used a pseudonym, detailed being “dragged … out of a car,” beaten, and told that “gays shouldn’t exist in Chechnya.” NBC's Kafanov added that in addition to the reporting by Novaya Gazeta, the abuses had been corroborated by human rights groups.

    Prominent world leaders have spoken out against the human rights abuses in Chechnya, including Merkel and newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron. Major human rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Amnesty International, and Outright International have also launched campaigns in support of LGBTQ Chechens. Despite this international condemnation -- and human rights groups’ calls for President Donald Trump to comment -- the president has not spoken publicly about the allegations or condemned Chechnya’s actions. It should be noted that newly appointed United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert have issued statements on the reports.

    Chechnya’s brutal attacks against and murders of queer men in the region have become an international human rights issue, but the American public would not know that by watching the evening news. Though NBC's and CNN’s pieces provided solid reporting, one package on each network's evening programming over a four-month span is not enough, and the utter silence of ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and Fox News does a disservice to their viewers.

    Methodology:

    Media Matters searched Nexis transcripts of CNN's, MSNBC's, and Fox News’ weekday 5-11 p.m. programming between April 1 and July 26 for mentions of the words “Chechnya” or “Chechen” or “Kadyrov” or “Russia” within 20 words of the terms “gay” or “LGBT” or “homosexual” or “lesbian” or “bisexual.” Media Matters also searched Nexis transcripts for those terms appearing on ABC's, CBS', and NBC’s nightly news programs ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, and NBC Nightly News, including the Saturday and Sunday editions of those shows. Media Matters also searched iQ media for those terms appearing on MSNBC’s 6 p.m. programming and the weekend broadcast news shows.

    Mentions of those terms were included in the analysis if the human rights abuses of gay, bisexual, and queer men in Chechnya were mentioned as the stated topic of conversation or if there was significant discussion of the topic. “Significant discussion” is defined as a back-and-forth exchange between two or more people; passing mentions were not included in the analysis.