When tens of thousands of Rohingya began fleeing Myanmar into Bangladesh last year, a question Reuters reporters tried to answer was what made 75,000 people, most of them leaving within about a month, desperate enough to abandon everything they had and run to Bangladesh?
Coming to grips with this exodus was complicated by an information blackout in northwestern Rakhine State where the military had cracked down on the Muslim minority. (Read the story here here)
The Reuters Yangon team of Antoni Slodkowski, Simon Lewis and Wa Lone turned to a network of trusted sources inside the area, which the army has kept off limits to independent journalists, aid workers and most diplomats.
The reporters relied on interviews with many witnesses, government officials and satellite imagery to corroborate accounts, establish facts and build a sequence of events.
The Reuters team developed this network over about six months of reporting how insurgents recruited and trained villagers and how the military had responded with reprisals against the Rohingya community that the United Nations said may amount to crimes against humanity.
In addition, Slodkowski and Delhi-based reporter Krishna Das went to Bangladesh’s refugee camps in January and February, where they interviewed dozens of Rohingya refugees. Their accounts were added to the many that had been gathered from inside Myanmar by phone. The reporters also conducted dozens of interviews with police, military officers and regional administrators.
More than 200 accounts - enabled Reuters to - reconstruct for the first time the two-week army crackdown that triggered the Rohingya exodus and a humanitarian crisis. The piece, published this week, also presented the government’s denials of alleged abuses, consistent with Reuters Trust Principles commitment to freedom from bias.