Report: Rohingya refugee's stolen pictures exploited by Anadolu Agency
An unknown number of the refugee’s photos were also sold on Getty Images for up to $499
Tens of photos taken by a Rohingya photographer have been stolen and sold by Mohammad Shahjahan, a freelancer with the Anadolu Agency.
The photos were taken by photographer Arafat Maung Hla Myint during and after the massive fire that ravaged Rohingya Camp 11 on March 5. They were sold without Myint's permission on the Anadolu Agency website for up to $120 each.
Mohammad Shahjahan was falsely credited for taking the photos on the website, according to a press release.
In addition, an unknown number of Myint's photos were also sold on Getty Images for up to $499. Besides, his photos have appeared on notable platforms including Time, CNN, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and hundreds of other sites.
When Myint asserted his copyright, he received mixed responses from various media outlets.
Al Jazeera, for example, used seven images, agreed to compensate him, and changed the credit to reflect his work.
The response from Amnesty International regarding this matter has been disappointing, according to Myint. As one of the first organizations contacted by the photographer and given its prominent status as a human rights organization, more decisive action was expected.
Instead of acting as requested, Amnesty International referred Myint back to Getty Images. This response is insufficient, considering the organization's mission to defend human rights and promote justice for all, reads the press release.
When Myint confronted Shahjahan about the theft, the latter threatened him, leveraging the alleged prohibition on cameras in the camp.
Shahjahan also said he would report Myint to the authorities. This tactic was aimed at preventing Myint from claiming ownership of his work and effectively blackmailing him into relinquishing his rights.
Anadolu Agency's response to Myint's copyright claim was unsatisfactory and failed to recognize the severity of the breach. While they acknowledged that the photos belonged to Myint's and removed them from their sales site and Getty Images, they continue to use his images on both their news site and Twitter account, thus remaining in breach of copyright, reads the press release.
Furthermore, the offer made by Anadolu was unacceptable as they did not agree to compensate Myint's for the unauthorized use of his work. Instead, they offered him a future freelance contract without any guarantees, which did not adequately address the issue at hand.
Anadolu Agency's behaviour condemned
A group of advocates and organizations, including the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Free Rohingya Coalition, European Rohingya Council, and others, have issued a statement condemning Anadolu Agency and Shahjahan's behaviour.
The statement expressed outrage over the copyright breach and the refusal to compensate Myint. It also highlighted Shahjahan's threats and intimidation tactics, causing distress to Myint and the wider Rohingya photographer community.
“We, the undersigned, condemn in the strongest possible terms the theft and intimidation that Anadolu Agency and Mohammad Shahjahan, one of its contracted photographers, has engaged in against a Rohingya refugee, Arfat Maung Hla Myint,” reads the statement.
“We are outraged that Anadolu Agency continues to be in breach of copyright and has refused to compensate Arfat. This is despite acknowledging the photos belong to Arfat,” it adds.
The signatories support Arfat's demand for payment to compensate for the copyright breach and criticize Anadolu Agency for exploiting the copyrights of a refugee.
“We support Arfat's demands for a payment to compensate for the copyright breach,” the statement says.
“We are shocked by the reprehensible behaviour by Mohammad Shahjahan, Anadolou Agency's contracted photographer. We call on the Anadolu Agency to take appropriate disciplinary action against Shahjahan for his criminal behaviour,” the statement further reads.
They emphasize that this exploitation goes against journalistic integrity, ethical conduct, and the foundations of responsible reporting.
“As a press agency, Anadolu Agency should not be exploiting the copyrights of a refugee,” the statement further adds.
Moreover, Anadolu Agency's disregard for Arfat's rights serves to marginalize and discourage an aspiring refugee photographer, exacerbating his challenges and making it even more difficult to overcome adversity and pursue his aspirations.
The statement has been signed by Benjamin Chesteron, film director, UK, Natasha Hirst (In personal capacity, vice-president, National Union of Journalists) UK, Tun Khin, president, Burmese Rohingya Organisation, UK, Rezaur Rahman Lenin, activist, Bangladesh, Nay San Lwin, co-founder, Free Rohingya Coalition, Germany, Dr Ambia Perveen, Chair, European Rohingya Council, Germany, and Shafiur Rahman, Organiser, Rohingya Photography Competition, UK.