Bangladesh: State of emergency, bloggers as information source

Bangladesh witnessed some dramatic changes recently. Last Thursday night president Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergency and resigned as the chief of the caretaker government, the prime demand of the opposition grand alliance. He also postponed the January 22nd election, the process of which was alleged as being engineered. Drishtipat Blog has a quick summary of the events that culminated into the state of emergency.

Military took over the streets and curfew was imposed from 11PM to 5AM at night. Moreover News broadcasting was banned in more than 10 private TV channels of Bangladesh and the presses were advised not to publish anything criticizing the Government actions. A vacuum of news updates was created as in Bangladesh internet penetration is less than 1%. People were trying to fathom what exactly was going on in Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi bloggers, however, took to the task of gathering information and voicing their opinions as the events progressed gradually. According to a report of the Guardian News Blog, Bangladeshi bloggers provided light to the dramatic political night to many in the world via internet.

On the next day the press embargo and the curfew were lifted and the controversial person who initiated the embargo was removed. The Government cracked down on suspected corrupt politicians and businessmen which was praised by the common people.

Although some questioned otherwise the state of emergency has been more or less welcomed by the Bangladeshis as it could give them respite from the continuous strikes and blockades crippling the country. The main worry the country faces now is the enactment of the emergency ordinance which curbs all the basic rights and puts the administrators above law. Under this act among other things the government can control or disrupt or block any message or news through postal service, radio, telegram, telex, fax, internet and telephone. Any person criticizing the government can face sever charges upto capital punishment.

Some bloggers joked whether they should start writing about their sex life or just about what they ate instead of talking politics only to avoid trouble. However in reality they did not refrain themselves from writing their opinions keeping the regulation in mind.

Sid of Serious Golmal asks:

“So is it democracy that has failed in Bangladesh or is it the politicians who have failed Bangladesh’s democracy?”

Meanwhile a new Chief of caretaker government and five advisors were appointed, who were endorsed by the opposition and the general public. Now people can expect to have a credible and free and fare election soon.

There are debates going on whether the state of emergency is a martial law in disguise and the president do not have full control of the army. Even if this is true, like the recent blood-less coup-d'etat in Thailand the Bangladeshis are not against the army in this situation. This may be their only chance of restoring the functional democracy following the election.

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