Bangladesh: Bloggers, the media and the army chief

The political arena of Bangladesh heated up after the Eid holidays. Bloggers cum citizen journalists had a role to play in this.

J Rahman at Mukti has some background:

Earlier this year, Bangladesh experienced an extra-constitutional change in government. The Economist called it a coup that dares not speak its name. Initially, this de facto coup brought respite from a months-old stalemate between the country’s rival political parties. But soon, the technocratic regime (Caretaker government) that was installed by the army started arresting top politicians on corruption charges.

In many ways it becomes evident who is running the show here. The army chief has been the center of media attention providing all kinds of political statement on behalf of the Caretaker Government. In recent days he has declared that he don't want to become president of the country which attracted much publicity and got cheered from the public. His prominent exposure in the local print media raises eyebrows. Rumi of In The Middle of Nowhere says:

Please see below the screenshots of the main page ( Cover page) of most of the major Bangladeshi newspapers published today… all of them had a common theme… Almost all newspapers gave banner heading treatment with a central front page picture of General Moeen U Ahmed. No, he did not save this planet from immediate annihilation by a meteor. He is visiting USA and spoke in a reception hosted by a hitherto unknown Bangali diaspora organization.

And you still want me to believe that Bangladesh is not under a de facto martial law?

An anonymous commenter in Mukti Blog first raised the question on the 16th of October. Mash followed it up with an investigative report in E-Bangladesh regarding irregularities in General Moeen U Ahmed's personal housing loan from Trust Bank, a commercial bank owned and operated by the Bangladesh Army. He had quoted evidence from an auditor certified prospectus hosted in public domain of the Security Exchange Commission of Bangladesh that Mr. Ahmed crossed his capacity as a director on the board in obtaining a large amount of loan. He also cited the regulation that more than one member of a family cannot be director of a bank but His brother was appointed as the MD of the Bank during his tenure.

Mukti adds:

These violations of the banking regulations were completely avoided by the mainstream media in Bangladesh. While the bloggers were discussing this, what did the daily newspapers in Dhaka report? They reported on the General’s visit to Britain and America.
After it broke in the internet, the General was asked about the issue by reporters from ATN Bangla, a TV channel. Then major newspapers reported the General’s explanations. Here is how the Daily Star chose to report it. Out-of-context? You be the judge.

Adding more to the controversy General Moeen U Ahmed denied the allegations and said he had only taken Taka 3.5 million (The audit report says 9.9 million). He also claimed that he is a victim of “internet propaganda.” His brother, the MD was also quick to respond [bn] to the issues without mentioning the audited prospectus.

Shada Kalo Blog reacts:

I would have accepted the explanation that the prospectus contained a typo. But if the MD is not claiming that the prospectus was incorrect, then surely the information was correct.

Tacit points to the significance of this:

This story will not die down any time soon, given that this is the same man who has sent countless people to jail, held them without bail, and tortured them, all in the name of ridding our country of nepotism and corruption. Hopefully, this information will give pause to everyone who would like to take him at his word and believe that he has Bangladesh’s best interests at heart.

And Mukti aptly puts it:

“(These are) questions that should be raised by people far more qualified than the bloggers who have been raising them this week.

I asked the editor of a major Bangla daily earlier this month about press freedom in today’s Bangladesh. He said a lot of things without answering the question. LK Advani said about the Indian media during their Emergency — the media was asked to bend, they chose to crawl. Ours seem to have taken supplication to a new low.

Even if the General is telling the truth, this incidence should make it obvious that unless things change, he is likely to end up not different from the other military rulers that came before him.”

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