PRESS RELEASE 21 MARCH 2023
A Rohingya photographer, Arfat Maung Hla Myint, had his photographs stolen and sold without permission by Mohammad Shahjahan, an Anadolu Agency freelancer. Ten of Arfat's images, taken during and after the great fire that ravaged Rohingya Camp 11 on 5 March 2023, were sold on Anadolu Agency's site for up to $120 each, with Shahjahan falsely credited as the photographer. An unknown number of Arafat’s images were also sold on Getty Images for up to $499.
Arfat's images have appeared on notable platforms like Time, CNN, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, as well as hundreds of other sites. When Arafat asserted his copyright, he received mixed responses from various media outlets. Al Jazeera, for example, used 7 images, agreed to compensate Arfat, and changed the credit to reflect his work. The response from Amnesty International regarding this matter has been disappointing, according to Arfat. As one of the first organisations contacted by the photographer and given its prominent status as a human rights organisation, more decisive action was expected. Instead of taking action as requested, Amnesty International referred Arfat back to Getty Images. This response appears to be insufficient, considering the organisation's mission to defend human rights and promote justice for all.
When Arfat confronted Shahjahan about the theft, the latter threatened him, leveraging the alleged prohibition on cameras in the camp, and stated he would report Arfat to the authorities. This tactic was aimed at preventing Arfat from claiming ownership of his work and effectively blackmailing him into relinquishing his rights. Anadolu Agency's response to Arfat's copyright claim was unsatisfactory and failed to recognise the severity of the breach. While they acknowledged that the photos belonged to Arfat 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. Furthermore, the offer made by Anadolu was unacceptable as they did not agree to compensate Arfat for the unauthorised use of his work. Instead, they offered him a future freelance contract without any guarantees, which did not adequately address the issue at hand.
A group of advocates and organisations, including the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, Free Rohingya Coalition, European Rohingya Council, and others, issued a statement condemning Anadolu Agency and Shahjahan's behaviour. The statement expressed outrage over the copyright breach and the refusal to compensate Arfat. It also highlighted Shahjahan's threats and intimidation tactics, causing distress to Arfat and the wider Rohingya photographer community. The signatories support Arfat's demand for payment to compensate for the copyright breach and criticise Anadolu Agency for exploiting the copyrights of a refugee. They emphasise that this exploitation goes against journalistic integrity, ethical conduct, and the foundations of responsible reporting. Moreover, Anadolu Agency's disregard for Arfat&'s rights serves to marginalise and discourage an aspiring refugee photographer, exacerbating their challenges and making it even more difficult for them to overcome adversity and pursue their aspirations.
Al Jazeera (with corrected credit) https://www.aljazeera.com/gallery/2023/3/5/photos-fire- hits-rohingya-refugee-camp-in-bangladesh-coxs-bazar
Statement condemning the behaviour of Anadolu Agency and its contracted photographer.
21 March 2023
1. 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.
Arfat's photographs were unlawfully sold on the Anadolu Agency for prices reaching $120 and on Getty Images for as much as $499. Shahjahan, the individual responsible for stealing and passing off Arfat's work as his own, even went as far as threatening to report Arfat to National Intelligence and to camp authorities for possessing a camera in an effort to silence and blackmail him.
2. 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.
Arfat's photographs have appeared on numerous highly recognised platforms such as The Guardian, Time, CNN, Al Jazeera, and Amnesty International, all of which provided attribution to Anadolu/Getty Images and/or wrongfully credited Shahjahan as the photographer, the individual who stole the images. In addition, a google search reveals that potentially over a hundred other websites have published these stolen photographs. Anadolu Agency has acknowledged the photos belong to Arfat and removed the images from its sales pages and the Getty Images site, but they have not notified the numerous outlets that have used the images that they are in violation of copyright. In addition, as of 21 March, Anadolu Agency itself remains in breach of copyright on its Twitter and web site for using Arfat’s photograph without permission.
3. 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 reprehensible behaviour exhibited by Shahjahan towards Arfat cannot be overstated. His actions, which involved issuing threats and engaging in intimidation tactics, have caused distress to Arfat and the wider Rohingya photographer community. Shahjahan's threats were made through a series of offensive WhatsApp messages and culminated in a late-night phone call, creating an atmosphere of fear and anxiety for Arfat. Shahjahan threatened to report Arfat to camp authorities and National Intelligence for using a camera to capture the very same photos that Shahjahan stole from Arfat and then sold on the Anadolu Agency and Getty Images site. Shahjahan engaged in blackmail in an attempt to silence Arfat.
4. We support Arfat's demands for a payment to compensate for the copyright breach..
We are disappointed by the offer made by Anadolu Agency to provide future work with no guarantees, which is in no way a fair resolution.
5. As a press agency, Anadolu Agency should not be exploiting the copyrights of a refugee.
First, it goes against the principles of journalistic integrity and ethical conduct, which are the foundations of responsible reporting. Second, Anadolu Agency's blatant disregard for Arfat's rights serves to marginalise and discourage an aspiring refugee photographer. This exploitation exacerbates their challenges and hardships, making it even more difficult for them to overcome adversity and pursue their aspirations.
Dr Shahidul Alam, Photojournalist, Founder of Drik and Pathshala, Writer
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
Shafiur Rahman, Organiser, Rohingya Photography Competition, UK