Several prominent Rohingya activists have had their social media posts deleted and accounts shut down in what is believed to be a coordinated campaign targeting Rohingya supporters.
A prominent Rohingya activist based in Saudi Arabia – Shah Hossain- has been running a Facebook page since 2010. He was shocked when various posts were deleted which raised awareness about the ongoing genocide against Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar army and Buddhist militias.
Mr Hossain also runs a popular YouTube channel called Arakan News Agency which has nearly 60,000 subscribers.
He told the BBC: “There were nearly 60,000 subscribers and suddenly YouTube deleted that channel. That is not what we were expecting from social media. We were trying to highlight our issue but social media platforms are blocking us.”
Facebook removed some of Mr Hossain’s posts for being too graphic, but he claims they complied with Facebook’s guidelines and were shared for education purposes.
However, it appears these are not isolated incidents.
A Germany-based Rohingya activist, Nay San Lwin, runs a network of local activists in Rakhine state. Mr Lwin usually posts comments in Burmese on his Facebook page highlighting what is actually happening on the ground.
Mr Lwin stressed that non-graphic text-only posts which hinted allegations against the Myanmar army have been deleted.
He told the BBC: “My colleague based in Kuala Lumpur was posting very simple news [items] in English.”“Those were removed by Facebook and his account was frozen for 72 hours.” Not only that but also this Malaysian activist received threats: “They have sent me death threats because I am posting all this information on my Facebook page.”
Mr Lwin concludes that the removal of these posts is a strategic campaign concocted by government supporters to suppress Rohingya voice online. Human rights groups came to a similar conclusion; however, such accusations are hard to prove.
Amnesty International’s Burma researcher – Laura Haigh- emphasised that the rationale behind these abridgements is ambiguous: “It’s all part of a propaganda war that’s going on behind the scenes here.”