The Narinjara is the name of river on which runs through Buddgaya in Viha state of India, the holy pilgrimage of every Buddhist. On this river more than two and half- thousands years ago Goutama the Buddha floated a golden bowl that drifted upstream signifying his enlightenment after along and hard struggle.
In our history, the Narinjara is also the name of a flourishing ancient city-state on Lemro dynasty in ancient Arakan kingdom. As we want to get peace in Arakan as well as in Burma. So the name of the Narinjara that stands for peace has been given for our news agency.
Narinjara News is an e-mail news service based in Dhaka and set up by a number of Arakanese democratic activists in exile in September 2001. In April 2000, there was a media workshop done by Burma Relief Center (BRC) in Bangladesh. Participants in the workshop were selected from among the democratic activists from Arakan State, Burma. Then in February 2001, there was another media workshop for activists from inside Arakan State, Burma. In April 2002 two of our senior editors and a correspondent underwent a media workshop arranged in Kolkata. The trainers included a BBC senior reporter, an AIR senior editor, and a PTI senior editor. In September 2002 chief editor of Narinjara attended another short course in media reporting and editing offered by Internews, Chiang Mai and facilitated by a funding agency. In September 2003, 6 members of Narinjara also attended the 6 days long journalist training in Dhaka, which was sponsored by Intewrnews, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Since the establishment of the Internet news service, Narinjara has been focusing on the developments on the western side of Burma where a virtual news blackout exists in addition to the official Press Security Act that block the way for the development of a free press other than the publication of official propaganda. Another reason behind setting up Narinjara is the objective projection of news from the western part of Burma, which has not been covered either by the mainstream Burmese press or the Burmese opposition media in exile. Besides the e-mail news service was set up to counteract the manipulation of the real occurrences in the western part of Burma, Arakan and Chin States, by the ruling SPDC junta. Narinjara was set up in 2001 to meet the much-required alternative news source for the western part of Burma – a source other than that of the Burmese junta’s propaganda machine. Since 1962 the military regimes in Burma including the present State Peace and Development Council junta have been running the country under dictatorial rule, under the guise of socialism, pseudo- or quasi-military dictatorship. Throughout all these years till now Freedom of Expression including that of Press has been seriously denied. The successive ruling military juntas of Burma have been running the country at their own will disregarding the democratic aspirations of the people of the country.
The much-hated Press Securities Act requires anyone who wants to express their voice in letters or through any means of expression including the audio-visual arts to be subjected to the rigorous censor of Press Scrutiny Board. No poem, no essay or any of the scripts for movies and theatrical arts besides newspapers and magazines can be published without being subjected to severe censorship and dictates of the military regime.
For this reason no newspaper or independent magazines have grown in the entire Arakan State situated in the western part of Burma bordering with Bangladesh and India. Since the state is home to a number of nationalities that profess Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Animism, the racial mosaic of the region is quite colorful. But the absence of freedom of expression and forced media blackout have always kept the developments in the state unreported and more oftener than not misreported through the Burmese junta owned and controlled press, radio and TV, that too broadcast from Rangoon. Arakan State does not have its own radio or TV stations beside the absence of the printed media, except for the limited number of annual magazines that are heavily controlled by the present SPDC junta.
The opposition Burmese press situated in New Delhi and Chiang Mai too could hardly cover the western part of Burma for the fact that they are not geographically contiguous to the region and the access into Arakan (Rakhine) is very difficult from their operational areas. On the other hand, the existence of Arakanese peoples in the southeastern region of Bangladesh, bordering with the western part of Burma, and the unofficial trade and trafficking along the border have eased Narinjara to access news and information inside the most underdeveloped and neglected part of western Burma where people seldom know about the value of a free press.
With the increased call for globalization the role of the media has become not only a daily necessity but also a means to vent the public outcry. In Burma people’s right to know is severely checked and manipulated. In previous trip, Mr Paneiro found that his room had been bugged in Rangoon. This alone shows how allergic the military rulers of Burma have been on the fair growth of media for upholding the causes of democracy, human rights and all the values of a free press.
Narinjara does not profess to solve all these problems overnight. But our pledge to the international community is it that, we are resolved to further the causes of democracy and human rights in the worst developed part of Burma. At present through a reliable network of volunteers and correspondents we are keeping tracks of the news and other developments inside Burma. People at home are now getting conscious about the power of the free press as our news pieces are picked up by many illustrious broadcasting houses and at a limited scale we are filtering in opposition publications inside Arakan State, and therefore Burma.
Though the people at home are not much aware of what is going on in the wide world, Narinjara in its short tenure has been able to make them aware that media is the only means by which to effectively reach them, and by which to carry their message for the world to know so that they can share their trials and tribulations under the oppressive military rule. Narinjara by such bold measures has been helping to contribute to the solution of the existing problems at home.