Behind the Scenes: Time Person of the Year 2018

Person Of The Year

Moises Saman photographing Shahidul Alam on Dec. 5 on his Dhaka, Bangladesh, rooftop

Propaganda, and the suppression of dissent

rahnuma ahmed

I have not acquired any fortune but I have my paternal estate and the pension of a Subedar. This is enough for me. The people in my village seem to respect me, and are now fully satisfied with the ease and benefits they enjoy under British rule.

Thus wrote Sita Ram in From Sepoy to Subedar, first published in 1873, sixteen years after the first war of independence (the British still refer to it as the Indian Rebellion, or the Indian Mutiny).

Sita Ram wrote the manuscript at the bidding of his commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Norgate in 1861, his son passed it on to the Englishman; the manuscript is supposed to have been written in Awadhi, Norgate translated it into English. An Urdu translation is also heard to have surfaced the same year. Few copies are known to have been sold, until 1911 that is, when a Colonel Phillott created a new syllabus for Hindustani exams, taken by colonial officers to test their knowledge of the language. Phillott himself translated the book into Urdu, and from then onwards, the autobiography of Sita Ram, who worked in the Bengal Native Army of the East India Company for forty-eight years (1812 to 1860)—became a ‘key text’ for British officers. The book was still part of the curriculum in the 1940s, it was translated into Devanagari in the same decade; a new and illustrated edition of the book (Norgate’s English translation), was brought out by James Lunt, as late as 1970. Continue reading “Propaganda, and the suppression of dissent”

Citizen, Defend Thyself

Originally published in Deutsche Welle

?The government can?t protect people in their bedrooms? the prime minister angrily retorted when questioned about the brutal murder of a young couple, both journalists, in their own home. Three years later the police have not made any progress in their investigation. No charges have been brought. After the murder of the bloggers it seems, the government is unable to protect you in the streets, at a book fair or even on the doorstep of your own home.

Protesters demonstrate against the killing of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh. Mr Das was hacked to death by masked assailants in the third such killing in the country in less than three months. Photograph: EPA/STR
Protesters demonstrate against the killing of blogger Ananta Bijoy Das in Bangladesh. Mr Das was hacked to death by masked assailants in the third such killing in the country in less than three months. Photograph: EPA/STR

Intolerance appears to be the order of the day in Bangladesh, impunity the general rule and denial the default? response. Since the government and the entire state machinery have been so occupied with arresting, killing and or arranging for the disappearance of opposition activists, any citizen not directly linked to the power structures is a potential target not only for the state machinery, but also for a host of racketeers, extortionists, fundamentalists or plain opportunists.? The judiciary no longer allows anyone to challenge the government even more worryingly the police are demanding that torture be made legal. Continue reading “Citizen, Defend Thyself”

Protecting Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh

Following is the English translation of the statement made by academics, writers, women?s rights, human rights and cultural activists, including freedom fighters, on December 18, 2014 regarding the conviction and sentencing of British journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal-2, in Dhaka. The statement was published in Prothom Alo, the largest Bangla daily, the next day. One of the statement makers, Khushi Kabir, withdrew her name from the statement the following day.
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On January 14, 2015, the Tribunal served notice on the 49 statement makers asking them to explain their statement: ?Prima facie it appears that the core content of the ‘statement’ questions ‘transparency and openness’ of the judicial proceedings before the tribunal and also justification of the order sentencing a journalist [Bergman] for the act of scandalising the tribunal constituting the offence of contempt.?
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Over the next two months, 26 statement makers tendered in writing their ?unconditional apology? before the Tribunal. These were accepted as they ?upgraded the majesty of the Tribunal? (Order No 11, dated 18.03.2015), and the 26 were exonerated from further proceedings.
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The remaining 23, who had expressed their ?regret? for any inadvertent impression the Tribunal may have received about it?s ?authority and institutional dignity? having been belittled, have failed to satisfy the Tribunal as their explanation lacks ?true remorse and repentance.? And, in the eyes of the Tribunal, they have, on the contrary, sought to ?defend? their statement by citing the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Bangladesh.
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The Tribunal has now decided (Order No. 12, dated 1.04.2015) to initiate contempt proceedings against Masud Khan (consultant), Afsan Chowdhury (liberation war researcher, university teacher), Ziaur Rahman (lawyer), Hana Shams Ahmed (writer, rights activist), professor Anu Muhammad (university teacher), Anusheh Anadil (singer, rights activist), Muktasree Chakma Sathi (rights activist), Lubna Marium (cultural activist, freedom fighter), Farida Akhter (women?s rights activist), Shireen Huq (women?s rights activist), Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury (public health activist, freedom fighter), Ali Ahmed Ziauddin (freedom fighter), Rahnuma Ahmed (writer), Dr. Shahidul Alam (photographer), Dr. C. R. Abrar (university teacher), Dr. Bina D’ Costa (peace and conflict analyst), Mahmud Rahman (writer), Dr. Zarina Nahar Kabir (university teacher), Leesa Gazi (cultural activist), Shabnam Nadiya (writer), Nasrin Siraj Annie (anthropologist and film-maker, Tibra Ali (physicist), and Dr. Delwar Hussain (anthropologist).
 
If found guilty they face a fine or imprisonment of up to 1 year. Continue reading “Protecting Freedom of Expression in Bangladesh”

Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance

Another blogger. Ananta Bijoy Das, murdered today. Police too busy beating up students to notice:
Anonto blogger killed with text———————————————————————————————————-
Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance | Economic and Political Weekly.
COMMENTARY Economic & Political Weekly EPW MARCH 21, 2015 vol l no 12 11 by?Shahidul Alam
The daylight murder of Bangladeshi blogger Avijit Roy in Dhaka on 26 February reflects the culture of fear and intolerance that has built up in the country over the last few decades. As a result, the middle ground between the extremes has disappeared.
Returning home with your wife, from a book fair where you have been signing autographs, seems a peaceful enough activity. It was in the heart of the university area, and it was not late. The footpath next to Ramna Park, where the 1971 surrender document had been signed, was full of people. Shahbagh Police Thana was nearby, and a police barricade designed to keep visitors to the mela safe, was only a few yards away. Hardly the scene crime stories are made of.
Location of murder of Dr. Avijit Roy near Dhaka University Teachers Students Centre (TSC) roundabout. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World Continue reading “Tolerating Death in a Culture of Intolerance”

How many more Avijit's must we mourn?

Mourning Avijit Roy

Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans
Avijit Roy, wife Rafida Ahmed Banya and daughter Trisha in holiday in New Orleans

It was a few yards away from where Dr. Milon had been killed. Then it had been?suspected the police were involved. This time, the police were a silent witness. Blogger and human rights activist Dr. Avijit Roy and his wife?Rafida Ahmed Banna?were returning home after visiting the Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Their ricksha was stopped, they were dragged out and Avijit was hacked to death. Banya?was severely injured and lost a finger.? Continue reading “How many more Avijit's must we mourn?”

More citizens protest against police raid on New Age office

Since the following news item was published in New Age, other prominent citizens have added themselves to the list:?Nasrin Khandoker,?Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury,?Farida Akhter,?Dr Amena Mohsin,?Ashraf Kaiser,?Shahnaz Huda,?Lubna Marium,?Nitra Samina,?Seuty Sabur

new-logo-300px1January 6, 2015
Staff Correspondent

Forty-four eminent citizens on Monday in a statement protested against the police raid on New Age office in the capital on December 28, 2014.

?The operation was not a stray incident, rather it was done in a planned manner to frighten news media as the part of continuing repression on citizen rights,? they said in the statement.

The statement read, ?Without giving any reason, such a police action was serious threat to the objective journalism and the freedom of press.?

It said, ?We also assume that the operation not only targeted a courageous and outspoken editor and his daily but also posed alarming message to the freedom of expression and citizen rights.?
They also demanded punishment of the police officials for the ?censurable incident.?
?We also demand the responsible authorities must apologise for the incident,? they said.

The statement was signed, among others, by Dhaka University teachers CR Abrar, Asif Nazrul and Gitiara Nasreen, photographer Shahidul Alam, Jahangirnagar University teachers Anu Mohammad, Naseem Akhter Hussain, Enamul Haque Khan, ATM Atiqur Rahman and Arifa Sultana, United States? Grand Valley State University teacher Azfar Hussain, Chittagong University teacher Sadaf Noor-e Islam, and right defenders Rahnuma Ahmed and Hana Shams Ahmed.

On December 28, 2014, a group of police led by Tejgaon industrial police station officer-in-charge Salahuddin stormed New Age premises in the peak hours of the newspaper at about 8:25pm without giving any reason.

Salahuddin said that he had ?information of serious nature? for which they needed to search the newspaper office.?He also threatened the newsmen saying that they would need to face dire consequences.

New Age Police Raid Press Release
See more at: http://newagebd.net/83512/44-citizens-protest-against-police-raid-on-new-age-office/#sthash.sNOJHo46.RLJZrpUR.dpuf
Guangming Online:?44 citizens protest against police raid on New Age office
 
 

How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets

?By?PETER?MAASS,?MAURICIO LIMA FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Glenn Greenwald, a writer for The Guardian, at home in Rio de Janeiro.
This past January, Laura Poitras received a curious e-mail from an anonymous stranger requesting her public encryption key. For almost two years, Poitras had been working on a documentary about surveillance, and she occasionally received queries from strangers. She replied to this one and sent her public key ? allowing him or her to send an encrypted e-mail that only Poitras could open, with her private key ? but she didn?t think much would come of it. Continue reading “How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets”

And we all remain silent

what happens to war criminals
Living in the majority world, we have learnt to expect Western hypocrisy. We are used to the rhetoric on democracy accompanying active support of pliant dictators.? We see Western governments preaching human rights, while actively engaging in torture.? Assisting state machineries involved in torture. We see the deification of dissidents in non-Western countries, while Western dissidents are vilified, tortured, sometimes killed. We see extrajudicial killings being approved by presidents, because it is more cost-effective.
With the persecution of??Snowden?however, they appear to have given up the pretense. No longer are they concerned with appearing to be moral. A US citizen is being victimized because he believes in the core principles of his nation?s constitution. His crime lies in being patriotic. For putting public interest before state servitude.
Snowden?is indeed guilty. He spoke the truth. He protested against injustice. He upheld the rights of the common citizen. It is a guilt I would be proud to share. He should wear it as a badge of honour.
Snowden?is doing precisely what the founding fathers of the United States would have wished him to do. The spying by NSA is an assault on all of us who genuinely believe in democracy. A belief many have died for.
From the ashes of this witch hunt, many more Snowdens will surely rise.
Shahidul Alam
Dhaka
22nd August 2013
Stephen Dupont, Jack Picone and Tim Page are other photographers who are expressing their solidarity
Related links:
Father of Edward?Snowden?issues open letter to Obama denouncing ?Orwellian surveillance programs?
Australian film director Paul Cox denounces US-led manhunt of EdwardSnowden
Deepa Mehta also protests