Myanmar has blacklisted a US photographer and prevented him from attending his own exhibition about stateless people, which would have included pictures of the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority. Award-winning documentary photographer Greg Constantine said he was stopped at Yangon airport on Friday and told he was on a “blacklist”.
Constantine said he believed it was linked to his work documenting the lives of the Rohingya, whose status is a major flashpoint in Myanmar. Many in the Buddhist-majority country revile the million-strong Muslim minority, who are based in western Rakhine state, and vigorously oppose any move to grant them citizenship.
“I’ve done a significant amount of work on stateless people in Rakhine… I can only speculate that that would be the reason, or one of the reasons, why I would be on this blacklist right now,” Constantine told AFP. Immigration officials confirmed that the photographer had been blacklisted but refused to say why.
“I cannot tell you what kind of blacklist he is on,” said Ye Tun Oo, the director of the immigration department. Constantine’s “Nowhere people”, which explores the lives of stateless people in 18 countries around the world, had been due to open in Yangon on Wednesday but has been temporarily postponed.
The exhibition was to include images of Rohingya in the destitute camps where many have languished for years and face severe restrictions on their movement and access to basic services. Hatred towards the minority has intensified since the government blamed Rohingya militants for deadly raids on police border posts last month.
Troops have locked down the area since, sending more than 15,000 people fleeing and killing at least 69 people in their hunt for the attackers. The government of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected reports that troops have shot unarmed Rohingya civilians, raped women and torched homes.
On Wednesday, director general of Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Aye Aye Soe accused media of colluding in a “misinformation campaign” by militants in Rakhine. Restricted access to the border region has made the allegations difficult to verify. Fears about press freedom have spiked after leading English-language daily the Myanmar Times banned writing on Rakhine and fired an editor for reporting allegations of gang rape by the military.