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:
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.
Let me translate it for you.
What you should do right at this moment:
- Destroy the rail roads as much as possible.
- Destroy all the water and land transport stations.
- Cut off Dhaka from all the districts.
- Gather around your closest police station and lock it up.
- Start propaganda war about Sayeedi in the rural areas.
- Vandalize the assets of the presses which are not in favor of us.
- Make videos of when police shoots at us and publish in world media.
- Gather around embassies and lock them up.
- Same as # 3.
- 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.