Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Free flow of information for a sustainable democracy –context Bangladesh.

S. M. Anwar Hossain, Media is often called as the third eye of the society. And free flow of information is the basic for media to play a vital role for Sustainable democracy! Due to continuous threat from Militant group, corruption of the politicians, barring Freedom of Expression and threat of extra Judicial Killing - free flow of information is invisible in context to Bangladesh. As a result sustainable democracy is far away to achieve. According to Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Freedom of expression” is ensured in article 19 and respectively Article 39 in the constitution of Bangladesh, is threatened!

In a report published by the state department of the United States for the year of 2009 says that “Attacks on journalists continued to be a problem. There was an increase in individuals affiliated with the government or ruling party harassing, arresting, or assaulting journalists. According to Odhikar and media watchdog groups, at least three journalists were killed, 84 were injured, one was arrested, 45 were assaulted, 73 were threatened, and 23 had cases filed against them during the year. According to some journalists and human rights NGOs, journalists engaged in self-censorship for fear of retribution from the government.”

In another report regarding press freedom published by the local NGO Odhikar for the first half of the year of 2010 says “Between January and June 2010, journalists have been attacked, assaulted and harassed in various ways. During this time, 02 journalists were killed, 52 were injured, 35 threatened and 29 were assaulted. 15 journalists were attacked.”
After passing one and a half year of Bangladesh Awami League lead government -what we see? Closing of You tube, Face Book, Two Television Channel and one Newspaper and finally jailed an editor and Journalists shows that free flow of Information is barred in context to Bangladesh.

Dated on March 9, 2009: Closing of You Tube A Military backed interim caretaker government handed over the power through an election in 2009 to a political government lead by Bangladesh Awami League. But does this mean Bangladesh returned to Democracy? Just after two months of winning the election, Bangladesh Awami League Lead government has blocked the video sharing website YouTube for hosting a recorded conversation between the newly elected prime minister and the country's powerful army officers, AFP report on 8th March 2009. That was the beginning!

Dated on October 22, 2009: Journalist Tortured reporting on Extra Judicial Killing FM Masum, a journalist employed by the English-language daily The New Age, who was arrested and tortured by an elite crime and counter-terrorist force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), on 22 October in Dhaka. Members of a RAB unit identified as RAB-10 entered Masum’s home on 22 October and tortured him while others pretended to discover drugs there. They then took him to their headquarters in Dhalpur and held him for about 10 hours, torturing him and threatening to kill him with the aim of extracting a confession. The newspaper has carried articles linking the RAB to extrajudicial executions and drug cases. We remember the torture on Editor in Sylhet by the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). We remember the torture on Jahangir Alam Akash by Rapid Action Battalion. We remember the torture on Tasneem Khalil.

Dated on March 22, 2010: A photo Exhibision on Extra Judicial Killing Banned The Dakha police closed the Drik gallery on 22 March 2010, just before the opening of the exhibition of photos and displays about extrajudicial executions by members of Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). The exhibition is called “Crossfire,” because the police claim that their victims are caught in the crossfire when the police act in legitimate self-defence or to prevent criminals escaping. Human Rights Watch puts the number of people killed by the RAB at around 1662.

Dated on April 27, 2010: Closing of A TV Channel Government’s sudden decision to close down the privately-owned Channel 1 TV station, which has been broadcasting for four years. The closure was announced on 27 April by Communications Minister Raziuddin Ahmed Raju, who said it was because the station had violated the 2001 Telecommunications Act by using broadcast equipment as collateral for loans.

Dated on April 29, 2010: A Journalist were killed The death of veteran journalist Foteh Osmani, the magazine Shaptahik 2000’s correspondent in the northeastern city of Sylhet, as a result of the injuries he received when attacked by unidentified armed assailants while riding on motorcycle with a friend 11 days earlier. His assailants clearly set an ambush for him even if their motives are not yet known. Three suspects were arrested.
Reporter without borders Urged to the Prime Minister that "We urge you to order an exhaustive investigation into Foteh Osmani’s murder in order to establish the identity and motives of those responsible and bring them to justice." Nothing has happened!

Dated on May 29,2010: Closing of Face Book Access to Facebook has been blocked in Bangladesh since 29 May, reportedly as a result of both the posting of Mohammed SM cartoons and “shocking” satirical images of prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the opposition leader and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s first president.

Dated on June 01, 2010: Closing of a Newspaper and Editor arrested, tortured and sued 31 times Government closed the national daily Amar Desh and arrested the editor Mahmudur Rahman. He was arrested during a pre-dawn raid on the newspaper office despite the protests of the journalists present. Rahman has been charged with fraud and violence against police officers. The newspaper’s printing press has also been closed. It is notable police couldn't show any warrant during his arrest. He was taken into remand for 12 days. He was tortured brutally in police custody.

More than 100 armed police officers carried out the raid on Amar Desh’s premises in Dhaka in the early hours of today, seizing copies of today’s issue before they were distributed and arresting Rahman in his office. Several journalists were injured during the raid and five journalists were charged with violence. Rahman was placed in pre-trial detention on a charge of fraud, while the newspaper’s printing press was also closed.

Rahman was sued 31 times; after he has published an investigative report that shows Present prime minister’s son had taken 3.5 million dollar from the foreign energy company Chevron. It could be mention that Rahman was the energy adviser of the former government.

Dated on June 08, 2010: Closing of another English Daily Bangladesh Observer is closed for now! Reports an online news agency name from Bangladesh. The report says that publication of the English daily was stopped, at least for now, by its owners on Tuesday.

Manzoor Ahmed Choudhury, chairman of Al Helal Printing and Publishing Company that owns Observer, confirmed to that the publication of the 60-year-old daily has 'temporarily' stopped. "We have taken over the newspaper. The publication has been stopped temporarily. It will be published again after reorganisation" he said. Publisher Nargis Rahman and her husband Riaz Rahman, who advises BNP chief Khaleda Zia, came to office on Tuesday after a long period of absence, said Observer employees.
They then paid 94 permanent and 20 part-time employees the money owed to them through cheques. The publisher then secured 'No demand' letters from the workers agreeing not to file any cases against them. But journalists working there said that they were not paid their full dues. They said the paper owed them salary and benefits of 92 months. "But the owners paid us only a third of the amount," senior sub-editor Tarun Tapan Chakrabarti told

Dated on August 19, 2010 Editor and one Journalist were Jailed
The Supreme Court impose a six-month jail sentence on Mahmudur Rahman, the acting editor of the opposition daily Amar Desh, and a one-month jail sentence on Oliullah Noman, one of his reporters, for contempt of court.

Due to vigorous threat from Islamist militant groups, continuous harassment by the corrupted politicians and businessman and fear of torture followed by Extra Judicial Killing from the Law enforcement agencies including RAB and Police, freedom of expression is threatened and the free flow of information is barred for a sustainable democracy in context of Bangladesh.

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