This is another pathetic example of journalism from a highly reputed newspaper. Sorry, my reader, for ruining your day with my ‘hate speech’! Please allow me to explain after presenting some quick info about the article:
Title: Unrest in Bangladesh, A nation divided
Authors: Not able to retrieve as of March 9, 2013
Date of publication: March 9, 2013
Let me start with the title ‘A flawed tribunal opens old wounds and threatens Bangladesh’s future’. Any public institution, no matter whether it is operating in a developing or developed nation, always has its limitations. In Bangladesh, with very limited resources, all the public institutions have always been working hard to serve people. Sometimes, because of the politicians, they are not able to meet citizen’s expectations but in most cases the gaps between the service and the expectations come merely from limited resources.
Think about The Economist is preparing a news on why President Obama has not fulfilled his promise of shutting down the Gitmo prison and starts the headline with ‘The Cheater President Obama…’! I invite my reader to predict whether this will ever happen. I think I can read your mind. It is negative. Why don’t we verify it? A quick search within The Economist website points us to this, this and this articles. Dear reader, please take your time to answer to my question – was The Economist judgmental while addressing President Obama in the headline or inside the news? No! Is the tenure of President Obama longer than the lifetime of the International Crimes Tribunal? Yes! Does the fact that The Economist published more news articles on President Obama than the International Crimes Tribunal mean they had more chances to be judgmental about President Obama? Yes! So, why The Economist is so quick for being judgmental about the ICT? I don’t have the answer. Surely, I am going to ask it to The Economist after I finish writing this article.
I would encourage you to raise the point that the case of President Obama and the case of the ICT may not be of same kind. Instead of defending myself I would like to take a second try. Let’s try my hypothesis with the most famous international crimes tribunal, the International Military Tribunal which hosted some of the Nuremberg trials long ago. I invite my readers to read the nine pages long critic of the Nuremberg trials by the famous expert on international laws, professor Quincy Wright, published in The American Journal of International Law in 1947. Since then researchers are still debating about different aspects of limitations of the courts set up in Nuremberg. Did The Economist ever term the Nuremberg trials flawed or even allegedly flawed? I have not done an exhaustive search but they didn’t at least in the articles which showed up on the first page of my search results inside The Economist website.
Why so hurry for being so decisive about the ICT of Bangladesh? I sincerely appreciate if someone is really asking question about the quality of the tribunal and its operations. But when someone is giving judgement I expect academic integrity and journalistic professionalism as a reader. If it doesn’t have enough evidence for being decisive, the report becomes just another example of careless poor quality journalism. Do the readers of The Economist deserve that?
Enough about the headline. Let us proceed. But alas! we have to stop at the very first paragraph! Take a look at the last two lines of that paragraph. If it looks familiar, you are right! The Economist made the same mistake the Saudi Gazette did on March 7, 2013. My explanation in another article says why the surprise The Economist is caught by about the ‘domestic nature’ of the ICT is totally irrational. I have a simple question to the unnamed reporter. Did you ever have some time to check the definition of international crime and the jurisdiction defined in the ICT Act 1973 enacted by the government of Bangladesh? Aren’t you supposed to do the homework?
The next several paragraphs are poor efforts of undermining the level of violence and terror caused by the Jamaat and Shibir activists and highlighting the number of killing by the law enforcement agencies. Why I am saying so? Let me quote from one of my previous articles which takes the statistics of post verdict violence from the most circulated national daily.
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.
These are the immediate reports came out within twenty four hours of the first wave of violence. The reporters are now doing more investigations and digging up horrifying stories of crime and terror against humanity happened at that period and ignored by The Economist. My dear readers, does The Economist report of our interest cover the depth and breadth of the nationwide violence took place? Do you feel the plight of the Hindu community with their houses burnt down, temples destroyed, family members killed and raped in several districts? Do you feel the sense of terror which engulfed the families of the staff members of a power station when the whole station and its residential complex was totally burnt down? Do you feel the panic of the passengers when six coaches of an express train were derailed because the Jamaat activists destroyed the some part of the rail roads? Unfortunately I don’t. Excuse me if it is just because English is not my first language!
The Economist also successfully failed to link up these acts of violence with the instructions came out within one hour of the Sayeedi verdict on the FaceBook pages of Jamaat and its organizations. The statement was loud and clear – ‘Burn and kill them all’. The exact statement and its translation is already mentioned in a previous article in this website.
The article then discusses about Jamaat and Shibir being more insurgents and less political parties and some other political hand waiving about how BNP is handling the situation. But the most striking contrast between the Shahbag movement and the BNP backed Jamaat ‘protest’ is terribly missing in the article. It is the difference between violence and non-violence. Let me quote this line from a later paragraph.
The protesters’ initial narrow focus on accountability for war crimes soon gave way to calls for the banning of Jamaat, along with its influential banks, businesses and social institutions. With that shift, the public support the protesters enjoyed from across the political spectrum evaporated. The struggle is now framed by the BNP and its ally as a battle between anti-Islamist forces and the pious.
I would like to ask the unnamed reporter several questions again. I understand that you have successfully quoted Jamaat and its ally’s view about Shahbag but what have you seen there yourself? I hope you wouldn’t say, we never sent a reporter to Shahbag. I wish I could ask – have you ever quoted the exact demands or statements or a official spokesperson of the Shahbag movement? I would be disappointed if you say no we didn’t. I understand that reporting in a south Asian country could be expensive for a western newspaper. But what about these solidarity expressed from 179 international universities around the world? Did you ever try to go to your closest one and ask the participants shown in the picture why they are with Shahbag while being thousands miles away? Dear The Economist, is the easiest way always the best way?
Being an industry outsider I am not sure what should I expect from a journalist – reporting the reality as complete as possible or preaching what s/he believes.
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 still thank The Economist 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.