This is one of the poorest example of journalism I have ever seen on ICT. Behold! This is by a professor of journalism of California State University, Los Angeles. Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130307155827

Title: Bangladesh ICTs: Monstrous injustice
Authors: Mohammad Auwal
Date of publication: March 07, 2013

The first paragraph introduces to the fact that the ICT has been handing out verdicts and Sayeedi is the most eminent preacher of the holy Quran in the country. Although I am not sure how to verify the second fact but let’s go by that. The second paragraph mentions that no charge has been filed against Sayeedi in last forty years. What point is he trying to make here? Can’t we punish a crime later if it is not punished immediately? Did the author explain how a 20 years of military rule within a decade of liberation can be a favorable time for justice? Did the professor mention that although it is thriving democracy is only about 20 years old there?

The fourth paragraph says the law enforcement agencies have been killing the activists of Jamaat – e – Islami and it’s student wing. Extra judicial killing can never be supported no matter who is killed. Being an avid follower of Bangladeshi politics I am aware of such events. But when a professor of journalism makes such general comment it impacts the quality of the writing and clouds the view of the reader. Why I am saying so? I invite the readers to read this I have written previously. Does this SG op-ed successfully hide the fact that there were cases where the Jamaat activists attacked the police while they were sitting inside their camp of petrol vans? Dear reader, I am referring to the two most circulated Bangla and English national dailies one with tenfold circulation of that of Saudi Gazette.

Let’s take a look at the first sentence of the fifth paragraph. I will not be surprised if the government uses its media and press to support what it is doing. I am not a big fan of Bangladesh Awami League of the present government! But wait a sec! Are they the most popular form of reflecting public opinion in my country? No! How could I say so? From TRP rating and circulations! It’s arithmetic. Has the author ever followed the most circulated national daily or the most viewed private cable network? They are not owned by the government. Reflecting public opinions is their bread and butter. How could an academician ignore the non-negligible part of the media which matters?

Enough about quality of the writing. Let’s talk about sheer lies. I invite you to read the second sentence of the same paragraph. Seriously! The Shahbag movement is orchestrated by the government? What about these reports of solidarity from 179 universities throughout the world? Are all these choreographed by the government? If so, I would suggest to replicate such an influential and motivator government in every country of the world!

The sixth paragraph contains twisted information about the so called Skypegate. The author truly said that justice Nizamul Haque Nasim was exposed collaborating with ruling party officials. What he ignored here is that how justice Nasim handled that exposure. I checked with the leaked conversation but failed to find where he agreed with the government about what will be in the verdict. To my understanding the discussion was more of prioritizing the cases from a logistics perspective. There might be a question whether a judge can have this kind of exposure but was it raised by the author? No! He hinted that the capital punishment might be handed by the ruling party in disguise of the justice. Excuse me! Which part of the conversation says so?

The later part of the same paragraph again presents another sheer lie. As I understand from the conversation that the Belgium based lobbyist (the author of our interest failed to mention that the lobbyist also happens to be an international criminal lawyer and academician) was helping about the technical format of the verdict and not about THE VERDICT. Dear reader, I encourage you to ask the question whether a justice can have such kind of informal professional relationship. What I should not encourage is paraphrasing a real fact and hint  to what not happened.

The next paragraph says the ‘loyal’ protesters of already knew about the verdict ahead of time. The author used the term ‘must have known’. So, it is a strong conviction which should have come from a rational thought process. I invite you to take a look at this demonstration by the students of MIT, Harvard and Northwestern universities. It took place on February 9, 2013, almost twenty days before the verdict was handed. If Bangla is not your first language let me translate the biggest banner for you. It says – ‘These criminals will never change. We want them hanged’. I would like to ask the author and you, my readers, whether these people also contributed along with the government and the Belgium based ‘lobbyist’ in writing the verdict. What about the students from 178 other international universities? All of them talked about hanging the accused. Did they all take part in the conspiracy? Let me tell you why the conspiracy theory about first men on the moon doesn’t count. It is because making all of you believe that men went to the moon is much more expensive than just sending men to the moon. Same case here! When 500000 people gather in one afternoon just saying hang them but not lynching the war criminals from the prison which is not very far it is about justice. You can confuse a person who doesn’t speak Bangla by exactly quoting from the slogans or banners but confusions never sustain.

This article is a disgrace to both academic integrity and quality journalism. How could the author forget to mention that Barrister T H Khan who was quoted in the tenth paragraph is also the vice chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party who is a political ally of Jamaat – e – Islami. Does mentioning only his professional experience and not mentioning his political affiliation give you the whole picture?

The eleventh paragraph is the funniest misinterpretation of the International Crimes Tribunal Act 1973 I have ever read. Did the author take some time to go through the actual law? ‘International’ is used here for crimes not for the tribunal. International crimes are the crimes which any country can take into concern and prosecute. The crimes should be covered under international law. Let me quote from an article by Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Switzerland.

The current system of international criminal law works through international ad hoc tribunals, internationalised or mixed tribunals, the International Criminal Court as well as national courts (military tribunals and ordinary courts).

So, the ICT is a national court which is well recognized in the definition. The Saudi Gazette failed to identify that the author, who is a professor of journalism, didn’t do his homework.

The next paragraph quotes a senior lawyer who once was the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Sheikh Mujibur Rahman government. Once again the author failed to recognize that the person is also an adviser to the chairperson of BNP which is a political ally of Jamaat – e – Islami. Two missing real affiliations and several false affiliations in the same article? The author must be having a bad day.

Then there comes a paragraph of theory stuffs out of which I was not able to make anything. Is it trying to answer the question whether there should be any tribunal at all? No clue!

In the fourteenth paragraph, the author claimed that one of the judges had the background of ani-Jamaat-e-Islami political activism. What does it really mean? In the last national election Jamaat-e-Islami got only about 4% of the popular votes from a Muslim majority country like Bangladesh. Can we claim from that fact that 96% of the Muslim majority voters were anti-Jamaat-e-Islami political activist? Cannot a citizen of Bangladesh have the right to reject what Jamaat-e-Islami is preaching or doing?

Let me quote the next paragraph exactly.

Even after the recent Skype scandal, the ICTs are strangely doing business as usual relying not on ethics but on the logic of power.

A single line paragraph with no reference or explanation. A newspaper with 50K circulation deserves better.

Dear author as I said this is one of the poorest pieces of journalism I have ever seen I can go on and on. Let me stop here and give you a break.

It is not always possible for a writer to estimate the impact of the op-ed s/he is writing. So, trying to remain as honest as possible might be the best practice just like we always try to write a computer program without fooling ourselves. I thank Professor Mohammad Auwal for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is the first article by David Bergman reporting the first hearing which took place at the ICT. Bergman is based in Bangladesh and has been devotedly reporting the detailed proceedings of the ICT for quite a long time. I must say overall he is doing a great job. But while going through the writings I have found some of the statements questionable. The article of our interest is one of them.

Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://bangladeshwarcrimes.blogspot.com/2010/08/first-hearing-26-july-2010-arrest.html

Title: 1st Hearing, 26 July 2010: Arrest warrants issued against 4 Jamaat leaders
Author: David Bergman
Date of publication: August 15, 2010

The article heavily quotes the most circulated national English daily, The Daily Star. The first quotation comes from the July 26 edition of the daily while the second quotation comes from the next day edition.

Until the last paragraph the article is just a series of events at ICT mostly taken from a secondary source. What about the last line? Let me quote Bergman.

There is a question as to whether the Tribunal had the power to issue an arrest warrant at this stage in the proceedings – an issue which will be discussed in a later blog.

Dear reader, I invite you to check with the Daily Star articles like I just did. Didn’t the last question come out of blue? Who raised the question? When? And where? Most importantly what is the jurisdictional basis of this question? Does the article completely satisfy us while it ends? Aren’t we confused here? Do we see a pointer to the later blog which discusses it? Is it possible that a newspaper which uses Bergman as a reference may totally misinterpret this and strongly suggest that the tribunal doesn’t have the jurisdiction to arrest someone and by giving such orders it is overstepping its boundaries?

I accept your argument that ideally such things should not happen. Let me remind you that we do not live in an ideal world. I just fixed a typo in the previous paragraph which ideally shouldn’t have happened!

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to justify the statements as much as possible with facts and rationale might be the best practice just like we always try to document the code of a computer program as much as possible. I thank David Bergman for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

This is a short report from a highly influential media which contains a seriously flawed statement. Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://m.npr.org/news/World/173241756

Title: Violent Street Clashes In Bangladesh Leave Dozens Dead
Authors: Julie McCarthy
Date of publication: March 01, 2013

I would like to invite you to read the second sentence.

Demonstrators for and against the convicted leader clashed with security forces, leaving dozens of people dead, including police.

If you have been following the ICT and the Shahbag protest for a while I bet you already had  goosebump. If you have heard of the ICT, Bangladesh or the Shahbag protest for the first time, please check with both the most circulated local Bangla and English dailies, specifically, the editions which came out on the same day as the NPR piece did. Were you able to find a single piece of news where the demonstrators against the convicted leader (i.e. the Shahbag protesters) clashed with the security forces? I understand that you weren’t.

Apart from this extremely incorrect information, the article reflects the reality in general. I sincerely appreciate the reporter and NPR for that.

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to remain as accurate as possible might be the best practice just like we always try to write a computer program free of bugs. I thank Julie McCarthy for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

One of the very first reports which triggered me to start this blog is this piece published on The Guardian. Some quick info about the report:

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/28/bangladesh-death-sentence-deadly-protests

Title: Bangladesh death sentence sparks deadly protests
Authors: Syed Zain Al-Mahmood in Dhaka and Jason Burke in Delhi
Date of publication: 28 February 2013
Date of amendment: 1 March 2013

I sincerely thank Al-Mahmood and Burke for covering the event. Overall this is a good report. But when I look at the fact that one of the authors was from Dhaka I become little curious about whether he had enough chance to check facts.

I start with the third paragraph. Here is the original version:

The verdict first set off wild scenes of jubilation in Shahbag square, in the capital, Dhaka, where hundreds of thousands of people have been agitating for weeks in favour of executing Islamist politicians on trial for war crimes.

How do you, my readers, feel about ‘in favour of executing Islamist politicians on trial’ part? You have all the rights to disagree but I have found it little too general. Do you see the difference in the impact on readers’ minds if it had been written as follows?

The verdict first set off wild scenes of jubilation in Shahbag square, in the capital, Dhaka, where hundreds of thousands of people have been agitating for weeks in favour of capital punishment  of Islamist politicians on trial for war crimes.

Forgive me if it is just because English is not my first language. But what about the fourth paragraph?

But clashes erupted when backers of Jamaat-e-Islami protested at the verdict. At least 14 demonstrators were said to have been shot dead by security forces across the country in the afternoon. Two policemen and a ruling party activist were also killed. By Friday the death toll was being put at more than 40, according to the Associated Press.

Do you notice the word demonstrators? Are those people vandalizing Hindu localities and temples demonstrators? Are those people removing fish plates from railroads which resulted into derailed coaches and passenger injuries protesters? I understand that there could be (I am certain there was) peaceful protests. Does this article differentiate between police actions on peaceful activities and police actions on terrorizing citizens?

The sixth paragraph horrifies me the most. After portraying the people, who reacted against the verdict of the convicted war criminal Sayeedi,  the report added that the protesters set fire to a Hindu temple etc. after an ‘also’.

Protesters also set fire to a Hindu temple and houses in Noakhali district, south of Dhaka, news agencies said. In the town of Cox’s Bazar, a police camp was attacked.

The verdict came out in the afternoon and by midnight communications between the capital and a number of localities were cut off. Let me pick some of those activities from the most circulated national daily of Bangladesh. I have chosen the edition which came out on the same day The Guardian published the news.

Jamaat activists killed three polices after attacking a police camp at the Sundarganj sub-district of Gaibandha district. An engineer who was a government employee was pushed off the roof and killed by Jamaat activists in Chapainawabganj. Jamaat activists set fire to the Bamondanga railway station in Rangpur. Some part of the Santahar-Lalmonirhar railroad was also destroyed by the same people.   Jamaat activists also attacked the Hindu localities of Rajgang bazaar in Begomganj, Noakhali. In Chiribondor sub-district of Dinajpur district three shops were vandalized by the local Jamaat activities. In Kodimchilan, Nator, Jamaat activists set fire to a police van which had polices inside. In Sonamosjid, Chapainawabganj they set fire to a government funded hotel which was under construction.

I just quoted a few. Dear readers, if you take a look at any map of Bangladesh you will be able to recognize that these acts of terror were distributed widely throughout the country. Does the news article cover the depth and breadth of violence happened on that day? You may argue that a newspaper article has a word limit and the reporter has to cover the context and other things. But look at the title! It is about ‘deadly protests’. Does the article cover all aspects of these ‘deadly protests’?

If you are not from Bangladesh or started following the situation lately let me give you some hints why  the ‘protest’ needed to include vandalizing Hindu temples and destroying railroads.  Here is the screenshot of instructions which came out on the FaceBook page of Islami Chatri Sangstha, the female students’ wing of Jamaat – e – Islami right after the verdict was declared.

Jamaat instructions came out after Sayeedi verdict
Jamaat instructions came out after Sayeedi verdict

Let me translate it for you.

What you should do right at this moment:

  1. Destroy the rail roads as much as possible.
  2. Destroy all the water and land transport stations.
  3. Cut off Dhaka from all the districts.
  4. Gather around your closest police station and lock it up.
  5. Start propaganda war about Sayeedi in the rural areas.
  6. Vandalize the assets of the presses which are not in favor of us.
  7. Make videos of when police shoots at us and publish in world media.
  8. Gather around embassies and lock them up.
  9. Same as # 3.
  10. Set fire to the houses of ministers and members of the parliament.

Could you related these ten points with what happened country wide?

Rest of the article is about the background of what is going on and comments from different organizations. I understand that most parts of the article reflect the reality but what if it is quoted by an organization which is not interested about the war crime which took place about forty two years ago but the statement that police opened fire at the ‘protesters’? Does this article tell them that police had to open fire because they were attacked by the ‘protesters’ while sitting inside the police camp?

It is not always possible for a reporter to estimate the impact of the article s/he is writing. So, trying to remain as complete as possible might be the best practice just like we always try to determine the worst case scenario while writing a computer program. I thank again Syed Zain Al-Mahmood and Jason Burke for taking interest in Bangladesh.

As I have said this is a live commentary on the press covering the ICT of Bangladesh, I am going to send my issues to the authors of this article. I will keep you posted in the comment section whether they agreed with me or not.

Since the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), Bangladesh started operating, it has always been under the microscopes of both national and international journalists. As a citizen and interested reader I have been following  the reports on ICT from the very beginning. In my area of professional interest whenever we publish a finding it is our responsibility to explain its quality. I was surprised to discover that some of those reports, both from local and international sources, seriously lack from clarity, journalistic honesty and completeness. I understand that a good number of journalists are doing really a great job without having all the resources in the world at their disposal. I also hope they are the majority in number. But the ICT has been running for quite a long time. So, those who are still doing not-so-great job should have learned how to do it better from looking at better examples. This blog will exclusively focus on the quality of such reports and try to understand what went wrong by contacting directly with the sources. All the analyses are sole responsibility of the author who doesn’t have a degree in journalism or law but only a reader’s appetite. Thanks for bearing with me.

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