My contract with VSO was for a year, and today I will leave Bangladesh and return to England, bringing this time to a close. And almost certainly this blog, bar a possible epilogue from London. How to surmise a year? I haven’t found religion or myself, but I haven’t really looked. What’s so distracting is Bangladesh; it throws up surprises in every corner and I can’t help but be transfixed by it. Continue reading ‘Shesh in the Desh’
Archive for the 'Media' Category
Three years ago I had dinner with a senior alumnus of my university and he initiated small talk by commenting that in his day, they survived without email. It has recently occurred to me that I could now return to my university at the tender age of 24 and remark that in my day, we survived without Facebook. More than other social networking sites, and not just through its popularity, it has changed the way we interact and engage socially – but there is a potential cost.
[This has been cross-posted in The Guardian’s ‘Comment Is Free’ section here.]
Monday 11th June marks the fifth month since the military took over and imposed a State of Emergency in Bangladesh. Through the civilian caretaker administration, which the military ‘support’, some level of social stability has been achieved, much-needed reforms set in motion, and with the newly empowered Anti-Corruption Commissioner labelling ‘at least 99%’ of Bangladeshi politicians corrupt, hundreds of senior Bangladeshi political figures have been jailed.
Yet this security has come at the cost of many essential freedoms, including the suspension of all political activities, and the intimidation of the domestic media against meaningful scrutiny. The military is essentially operating with total impunity. The most recent report by the Bangladeshi human rights organisation Odhikar stated that during the first 130 days of the State of Emergency, 96 people were killed by law-enforcement personnel, including 14 deaths through torture, seven of which were committed by the Army or ‘Joint Forces’.
[This has been cross-posted in The Guardian’s Comment Is Free section. You can access it, and see comments here.]
General Moeen U Ahmed, who led Bangladesh’s military coup in January and is widely seen to be pulling the strings of the interim government, stated on May 22nd that he had no wish to enter politics formally, and did not intend to implement martial law. He also admitted to journalists that there had been cases of media intimidation, but called them an ‘aberration’, adding that “the government can learn from its mistakes, if there is any, from media criticism.” The paradox is that there isn’t strong media criticism because the military have blocked or banned it, so it would appear that they’re not making any mistakes. And so the State of Emergency continues, and we all remain none-the-wiser.
UPDATE – Sunday 13th May 2007
Tasneem was released on Friday, 24hrs after being picked up in the night by the army.
At the moment, no-one seems to know why he was detained. Apparently it was not to do with his journalistic activities. His editor at The Daily Star, Mahfuz Anam has kept very quiet about the whole thing, and his paper has scarcely mentioned it, which totally goes against their Liberal credentials, ‘The People’s Right to Know’ etc…
This looks like it’s much more than just a ‘freedom of the press’ issue. When the dust settles and the facts are available over the speculation, I’ll write a bit more.
The army have really made a mistake this time. Just when their puppet leader Fakhruddin Ahmed has been making assurances not to limit the freedom of the press, last night a prominent investigative reporter, Tasneem Khalil was arrested and taken from his home. Already there is uproar
They picked on the wrong journalist, as Tasneem is also a consultant for Human Rights Watch and a news representative for CNN.
Here is the press release HRW have just issued:
Bangladesh: Release Journalist and Rights Activist
Army Arrests Tasneem Khalil of Human Rights Watch
(London, May 11, 2007) – Bangladesh’s military-backed care-taker government should immediately release Tasneem Khalil, an investigative journalist and part-time Human Rights Watch consultant, who was detained by security forces late last night, Human Rights Watch said today.
Khalil, 26, is a journalist for the Dhaka-based Daily Star newspaper who conducts research for Human Rights Watch. According to his wife, four men in plainclothes who identified themselves as from the “joint task force”came to the door after midnight on May 11 in Dhaka, demanding to take Khalil away. They said they were placing Khalil “under arrest” and taking him to the Sangsad Bhavan army camp, outside the parliament building in Dhaka. Continue reading ‘Tasneem Khalil arrested – UPDATED’
I was flicking through the tv recently and came across a Bangladeshi science-fiction drama. This made me laugh out loud, partly because it was brilliantly cheap and the costumes looked like something from a Duran Duran video, but also because the idea of Bangladeshi science fiction itself is a bit absurd.
Bangladesh does of course have big modern buildings, and investment from trans-national corporations, and offices with computers, internet and everything, but I’ve also been to villages where my digital watch is the most advanced thing there, and my digital watch is broken. I didn’t watch all of the show, but I could imagine them going off and encountering an alien planet where ‘oooohhh, look Rajesh, they have electricity 24 hours a day. This species is far advanced from our own. Where is their sewage network? It must be under the ground! Ooooohhhhh, super technology jah?’
It’s this juxtaposition of a world totally dependent on the latest international technology inhabiting the same geographical space as a world that doesn’t even have electricity that I find so staggering, constantly.
The august New York Times has published an editorial on the crisis in Bangladesh today. The NYT states:
Bangladesh in the Generals’ Grip
Promoting democracy, especially in Islamic countries, is supposed to be a major goal of President Bush’s foreign policy. But his administration has raised little protest as Bangladesh — until January the world’s fifth most populous democracy — has been transformed into its second most populous military dictatorship.