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.
?
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.?
?
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.
?
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.
?
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”

Time Warner Cable Drops Current TV Upon Sale To Al Jazeera

Time Warner Al Jazeera

The newsroom at Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 14, 2006. (Photo credit: Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK ?- Time Warner Cable pulled the plug on Current TV just hours after news of the cable channel’s sale to Al Jazeera became official.
“This channel is no longer available on Time Warner Cable,” read an on-screen message where Current TV used to be found. Continue reading “Time Warner Cable Drops Current TV Upon Sale To Al Jazeera”

Finally I feel safe

Sri Lankan Editor Frederica Jansz Flees Sri Lanka

November 4, 2012 | Filed under: Colombo Telegraph,Featured News,News,STORIES |

When luddites go digital

Article that looks at the rise of digital Bangladesh culminating in the current blockage of www.youtube.com in Bangladesh.

Remember those days? It was 1993. Getting a new telephone line took several years and large bribes. Getting an international line was another matter and calling overseas required making a ?Trunk Call? through an operator and a wait of several hours. Phone calls were expensive. A one-minute fax or call to the US cost well over 100 Taka. The exchange rate was very different, and a 116 Taka one page fax would have set you back three US dollars! We needed government permission to import a fax machine and the clunky early generation mobile phones cost over one lakh each (US $ 2,500). It was less than twenty years ago. Now, Mobin, the guy in our mudir dokan (corner shop) downloads videos from my blog (where he is featured) on his mobile phone. We get news on TV sandwiched between gyrating boys and girls advertising FnF connections.  My attempts to curb Facebook use at work has failed miserably. We finally have 3G, at least partially.
How did this digital revolution come about? We had decided to set up our picture agency Drik, not in the established photographic marketplaces of London, Paris or New York, but in Dhaka, where our photographers were based. But while we were close to our photographers our distance from the market, in terms of miles and means was enormous. What we also wanted to do was to set up a South-South exchange, so we could build on our collective strengths. A Dutch organisation called TOOL was interested in publishing my book, and I decided to meet up with them while in Amsterdam for the judging of World Press Photo. Researching on them I discovered they also offered off-line email, using Fidonet technology. More importantly, they too were keen on setting up a South-South exchange. Continue reading “When luddites go digital”

Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Frederica Jansz

On this program Sanjana Hattotuwa talks to Frederica Jansz, Former Editor-In-Chief, The Sunday Leader


An excellent interview that maps out the options faced by independent media in our region. Earlier this year Sanjana Hattotuwa had introduced the bookMy journey as a witness” at the Barefoot Gallery in Colombo.

Shell Blocks Employee Access to Activist Website

?71,010 employees blocked from tweeting Oprah about Supreme Court murder case?

Houston, TX (October 2, 2012) ? Early Monday morning, 71,010 Shell employees received an email from the company’s “Grassroots Employee Empowerment Division” providing information on Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, a pivotal human rights case being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court. The email contained links to news stories, as well as a tool to help employees tweet their feelings about the case at key US news anchors (and Oprah Winfrey).
The only thing is, Shell has no “Grassroots Employee Empowerment Division,” and they don’t want publicity for the case. The email was in fact the work of an activist group called People Against Legalizing Murder (PALM), who received the list of Shell emails from what they believe to be a group of disaffected employees. (A similar leak occurred two years ago.)
Within minutes of the email being sent out, Shell internally blocked the site, preventing employees from accessing it. “I would love to participate, but access is denied to all links you sent out,” wrote one employee among many. The 71,010 employees were informed this morning of the situation and the site’s new URL.
PALM intended the action to help shine a spotlight on the case, brought by the widow of Dr. Barinem Kiobel, who was hanged along with novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa for opposition to Shell’s drilling plans in West Africa. Shell is alleged to have aided paramilitary forces that raided more than 60 villages, killed over 800 people, and displaced 30,000 more.
To prevail, Shell lawyers must overturn a 200-year-old law, the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), that compensates victims of international crimes. (The law has been used to compensate Holocaust survivors who sued for restitution from corporations that profited from slavery and forced labor during World War II.) Shell’s lawyers are arguing that their corporation is not subject to the ATS because it is not a person.
“When it comes to things like election spending, Shell and other corporations want to have all the rights of people,” said Sean Dagohoy from PALM. “But when accused of murder, Shell conveniently argues that they aren’t a person. A ruling in their favor would be a very dangerous precedent, and would badly undermine the United States’ reputation as a place that cares about human rights. That’s why we attempted to reach out to Shell employees to help get the word out.”
“Surely most Shell employees, like most people, don’t want multinationals to get away with murder just because murder’s convenient,” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Lab, which provided technical assistance for the action.
“Shell needs to let its employees speak,” said Mike Bonanno of the Yes Lab. “They can prevent it for a day, but in the long run they have no choice.”
Contact
Sean Dagohoy
People Against Legalizing Murder (PALM)
Andy Bichlbaum or Mike Bonanno
The Yes Lab

Conservatives, Democrats and the convenience of denouncing free speech

Westerners love to decry censorship aimed at them by Muslims while ignoring the extreme censorship they impose on them

?guardian.co.uk,

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the State Department in Washington Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, on the recent deaths of Americans in Libya. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Nothing tests one’s intellectual honesty and ability to apply principles consistently more than free speech controversies. It is exceedingly easy to invoke free speech values in defense of political views you like. It is exceedingly difficult to invoke them in defense of views you loathe. But the true test for determining the authenticity of one’s belief in free speech is whether one does the latter, not the former. Continue reading “Conservatives, Democrats and the convenience of denouncing free speech”

Contemporary art and cultural clashes in kathmandu.

by Satish Sharma: Rotigraphy

THURSDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2012

“Artist advised to paint works that are pleasing …not satirical…socio political works can only be exhibited during gai jatra..?
Artist’s paintings should be self explanatory? “a picture should speak a 1000 words”.
Artists need to follow traditional parameters while painting religious iconography….modern interpretations will be considered blasphemous
The state can take action against artists if these guidelines are not observed”
Sangeeta Thapa on ?Facebook?quoting or paraphrasing the?official?’police’ reaction.
Watching the Kathmandu gallery episode unfold on social media is a fascinating eye opener . ?So much to learn ?so ?much to think about. so many spaces to open up. in the ?minds of artists and even their local audiences. Continue reading “Contemporary art and cultural clashes in kathmandu.”

Assassination attempt on Clinton suppressed by media

Israeli and U.S. Media Conspired to Block Attempted Assassination of Clinton
Political Perspective by Tim King Salem-News.com
Hiding the event from the public makes the media guilty of treason.

Hilary Clinton meets politicians during her recent trip to Israel. There are reports that an assassination attempt had been made, which went largely unreported.vosizneias.com

(SALEM) – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton survived an assassination attempt during an official visit to Israel this week, according to Israel Radio and Reuters.
Israel Radio broke the story. Normal security procedures that should have prevented any vehicle on open regions from coming within 200 meters of Clinton were not observed.
Those who follow news from the Middle east are probably not surprised by this. The United States as it turns out, is as devout in its support of Israel as it claims. The recent multiple standing ovations for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress, when he is an accused war criminal, apparently apparently mark an even greater dedication to Israel than the United States itself.
Ignoring an assassination attempt and hiding the event from the public makes the media guilty of treason. It really does. They have had their pants around their ankles for years, but this really takes the cake.
The media; CNN, BBC, all of the major networks and the New York Times itself, are worthless today. I have to admit I am shocked that the press actually chose to suppress and thus, misrepresent the event to the public.
Many critics of Israel claim that its political leaders are not working in the interest of anything except war and domination. They have remained determined first and foremost, to take physical possession of Palestine; and Clinton is willing to throw her dignity under the bus in support of it. What a bunch of dishonest deceivers they are.
According to Zee News in India,

  • There was an assassination attempt on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while she was on an official visit to Israel, according to Israel Radio and a news agency.
  • Israel Radio broke the story earlier in the week, which was confirmed by sources inside Israel, but never mentioned again.
  • According to World Mathaba, the purported attack on Hillary was related to the current political upheaval in Israel — the aim being kill Hillary, blame Iran and take the focus off the domestic political meltdown in Tel Aviv.

The story grows darker. As we all know, at least five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria were murdered in a bus blast this week;
One of the only things we in this world can be sure of, is that Israel wants to wage a war on Iran. That is so exceedingly clear. Zee News is an established news agency in India.

  • According to sources, the attack on Hillary?s convoy, a minimum of three to five vehicles, travelling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, follows the story earlier of an attack on a bus loaded with Israeli tourists that exploded in Bulgaria, which killed six persons.
  • According to World Mathaba, both the Bulgaria attack and the attempted assassination of Hillary was a Mossad “false flag” operation.

If Americans are so determined to support Israel, perhaps they should move there, and that suggestion applies to all who value Israeli interests on a high level than those of the United States of America.
Israel is an apartheid state like South Africa; it is founded on the concept of racial superiority, it is not a nation of Holocaust survivors, and most of those who survived the horrors of the Nazi death machine do not favor Israel’s genocidal position toward Palestine, and they especially deplore Israel’s separate laws and roads for Jews and non-Jews.
Did Clinton make the mistake of driving on a Jewish-only road?
Was there an assassination attempt on Hillary in Israel? – Zee News
Was there an assassination attempt on Hillary Clinton in Israel? – News Track India
The rest of Hillary’s trip didn’t go too smoothly either. This was reported from Egypt.
The protesting crowds hailed the motorcade with vegetables and other objects, reportedly hitting one of the Egyptian officials in the convoy in the face. The American armored motorcade suffered only superficial damage while Hillary Clinton?s car remained intact.
There have been reports of the protesters chanting “Leave, Clinton? and “Monica, Monica,” presumably referring to the scandal with the secretary?s husband, former US President Bill Clinton?s extra-marital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

Q & A: Censorship

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON CENSORSHIP

The previous postings in?Round One?and?Round Two?included answers from Australia, Europe and North America.
In this round, we hear from respondents in Australia, Bangladeshi, Canada and Israel.
This Q&A series follows on from Alasdair Foster?sinterview with Armani Nimerawi?on the subject of censorship, CDC asked artists and colleagues around the world three questions:

  1. Have you ever been censored?
  2. Can you give an example of justified censorship?
  3. If you ruled the world? how would the issues that lead to censorship be addressed?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
~

RUTHI OFEK

Ruthi Ofek is Director of the Open Museum of Tel Hai. Notably, this museum is situated in the heart of an industrial area and its mission is to break down barriers between the worlds of art and industry. Focusing on important national and international photographers, its programs are presented across five themed galleries. Additionally, once a year, it organises a group exhibition of graduate photography from Israeli art schools.

Have you ever been censored?

Yes, years ago, we had a student graduation exhibition. One of the students had thrown photographs of Israeli former Prime Ministers on the floor so that the visitors had to walk over them. It created a big scandal in the press and we were asked to change the position of the photographs, so they were re-displayed on the wall.

Can you give an example of justified censorship?

I can justify the censorship if it simply a personal attack, but not if it is an expression of free opinion.

If you ruled the world?

If I ruled the world, I would emphasis creativity focused on good ideas that would make the world a better place to live in. This is an optimistic wish, because I have three grandchildren!
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
~

WILLIAM YANG

William Yang has been hailed as one of Australia?s great storytellers. His very personal interweaving of narratives describes the experience of being a gay third-generation Chinese Australian in a country that was not always hospitable to people of different appearance or alternative sexual orientation. While he exhibits regularly and widely, his ultimate art form is the illustrated monologue for which he has won plaudits around the globe.

Have you ever been censored?

Yes I have been censored. Censoring covers a spectrum of attitudes from banning to disapproval. I like to show gay images: that is men having sex with men, and male nudity. Both these areas have met with degrees of disapproval.
Contemporary art practices generally favour pushing boundaries and the new. I have some idea which of my photos would provoke a disapproving response although you never really know until you put it out there in the public domain. I decide how far I want to go, whether an idea or attitude is worth pushing. So it?s a kind of self-censorship which is part of cultural socialization. It happens all the time in ordinary socialization.

Can you give an example of justified censorship?

An example of justified censorship was not showing the dead body of Osama Bin Laden for fear it would inflame the Muslin world. It would have been a provocative act.

If you ruled the world?

Most attitudes are the result of cultural conditioning. If I ruled the world I would like everyone to be exposed to different cultural attitudes. If there was an issue about, say, attitudes towards women, people should be exposed to cultures with different attitudes to this topic, and hopefully an understanding of position would come from this exposure. It?s better to know where a person is coming from and to have an attitude of live and let live, than to say ?You can?t do that? with its implication of ?My position is better?.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
~

DIANA THORNEYCROFT

Diana Thorneycroft is an award-winning?artist living in Winnipeg. Over the past three decades she has created challenging work that blends a shadowy narrative with an aesthetic that seduces even as it disturbs.? While her earlier work situates a living figure in a mythic space, her later images use dolls and toys to mine a troubled sensibility that is deeply engrained in the Canadian identity.?Canadian Art?magazine rated her ?Group of Seven Awkward Moments? in the top ten exhibitions of 2008.

Have you ever been censored?

There are several kinds of censorship: the big ?C? when work is removed from gallery walls due to public pressure, which I have never experienced; and the small ?c?, when exhibitions are refused, even though the work is strong, because of the risk it presents.
My exhibition ?The Body, It?s Lesson and Camouflage? had a remarkable tour despite the content being problematic for many viewers. For that I credit the institutions that accepted the show and the individuals who stood behind the work. In situations where galleries had a ?talk back? forum in place (where members of the public were encouraged to leave their comments) it was clear many visitors felt my photographs should be taken down. And, if it were up to them, the work would be (as one person wrote) ?burned out back with the rest of the garbage?.

Can you give an example of justified censorship?

Hands down, art work that deals with blatant child pornography. I know in some people?s minds this is subjective ? case in point, Sally Mann?s photographs of her kids, however I doubt her images would appear in a porn magazine.

If you ruled the world?

If I ruled the world I would implant little chips into every person?s brain that would cause temporary blindness as they approached an image that they would find too difficult to handle.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
~

SHAHIDUL ALAM

Shahidul Alam?is a photographer and social activist based in Dhaka. He set up?DRIK?photo agency in 1989 and in 1998 he founded?Pathshala:South Asian Institute of Photography, which recently became the?South Asian Media Academy. He is also a director of?Chobi Mela, Asia?s longest-running festival of photography. Widely respected internationally, he was the?first person of colour to chair the international jury of World Press Photo. His monograph??My journey as a witness??was published in 2011.

Have you ever been censored?

Censorship occurs in many ways, and I have faced it numerous times in my career. It?s happened in Bangladesh, where galleries have refused to show my work, sponsors have backed out, and our gallery and office have been surrounded by riot police preventing visitors from coming in. Overseas publications have been very keen to get my content. Until they discovered my work was critical of their practice, which was followed by a stony silence. Nothing, of course, was printed.
In Bangladesh there was also more indirect, but more disruptive action. This was not censorship in a strict sense, but a message sent in response to our actions. All telephone lines to our office were disconnected after we published a critical piece on our human rights portal. It took two and a half years to get our lines working again. I was attacked in a street that was protected by the military and received eight knife wounds on the day after we had organised a press conference protesting against the government using the military to round-up opposition activists.

Can you give an example of justified censorship?

This is a difficult one and I am wary of giving answers that might be used out of context, but I myself have withheld information where the location of a person who had death threats made against her would have been revealed, putting her life at risk.

If you ruled the world?

I do not believe the world should have a single ruler but, if I were in a position of influence, I would work towards developing a responsible attitude towards information and ensure there was a culture of sharing. If I were the gatekeeper, my primary goal would be to ensure I had gained sufficient trust for people to respect my judgement. There will always be information that has to be withheld at a particular point. If people feel the decision makers have integrity, then acceptance of such actions becomes less of an issue. However, any act of censorship would need to be justified, and clearly demonstrated to be in the interest of public good. That does open it up to the question of who defines public good and on what basis, but there is no way round that one.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Images:
A boy views the landscape through a camera obscura in front of the Open Museum of Photography Tel Hai [image ? the Museum]
?Tony and Michael? 1995 ? William Yang
untitled (snare)????Diana Thorneycroft
Cover of Shahidul Alam?s book ?My Journey as a Witness? [Skira Editore, 2011]

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The lead article for this short season on censorship is??On Liberty?and?Censorship?, an interview by Armani Nimerawi?with Alasdair Foster, sections of which were?published?in Capture magazine in May 2012.
You may also be interested Helen?Grace?s 2004?interview?with?Alasdair Foster for?ArtLink?magazine, in which they discussed??Staring in the Dark?,?an?exhibition?about artists who engage pornography.
Also?related?to this theme is the article?written?for The Bakery Art Centre in Perth:??Normality is not a Virtue?