Weekly Polls

Here is the third Poll:
Saudi Arabian law does not recognise religious freedom, and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is actively prohibited. No law specifically requires citizens to be Muslims, but article 12.4 of the Naturalisation Law requires that applicants attest to their religious affiliation, and article 14.1 requires that applicants to get a certificate endorsed by their local cleric. Saudi Arabia, a member of the UN’s Human Rights Council and a close US ally, is hiring more executioners, according to its Ministry of Civil Service website.
With 85 people already executed this year alone, Saudi Arabia is recruiting eight more executioners to fulfil positions that require carrying out beheadings, as well as performing amputations on those who committed smaller offences, according to a report from Reuters
Is the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the Current Membership of the Human Rights Council, 1 January – 31 December 2015 justified?


Here is the second Poll:
While theoretically there is a separation between the judiciary and the executive, there are many who feel the judiciary is unduly influenced by the party in power. The recent increase in the number of contempt of court cases has also raised doubts in people?s minds about whether the primary motive of the judiciary is to implement justice, or whether it is to protect the image of the government. The Bangladesh judiciary has had a long tradition of resisting autocratic rule and has in the past taken landmark decisions that have gone against the ruling party. Is that still the case? Tell us what you think and get others to voice their opinion. It is only through occupying the public space that we can bring about a government and an establishment that is truly representative of our interests


With politicians on either side claiming they are the legitimate voice of the people, and with corporate spin dominating news, I thought it would be useful to create a voice for citizens. This is a series of weekly polls that I’ll be conducting from now on. While it will be completely transparent, there is no guarantee that it will not be tampered with or hijacked. The only way we can reduce this is by our active participation. So let your voice be heard. Please send me your suggestions for future polls. They can be on any topic that you consider to be in the public interest.
Here is the first Poll:

Please feel free to provide further information or comment:

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”

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
 
 

Blogger Asif Mohiuddin arrested over ?blasphemous? blog posts

11 bloggers on Bangladesh government’s hit list (ed)

By Benjamin Ismail: Reporters sans frontiers

Asif Mohiuddin, a?militant atheist blogger?who has been hounded by Bangladeshi Islamists and officials, was arrested today by the Detective Branch of the Dhaka police and is currently being interrogated about his recent posts. The police say he could be taken before a judge tomorrow.
?We call for Mohiuddin?s immediate and unconditional release,? Reporters Without Borders said. ?After being the victim of knife attack in January, he is in very poor health and needs constant medical attention. The Detective Branch told us he is being ?treated well? but the opposite is happening ? he continues to be held in deplorable conditions of hygiene and lack of access to medical treatment. Continue reading “Blogger Asif Mohiuddin arrested over ?blasphemous? blog posts”

BBC Bangla anniversary debate

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BBC Bangla anniversary debate on Channel i focuses on freedom of information

Date:?21.12.2011Last updated: 21.12.2011 at 15.01Category:?World Service

Bangladesh?s rapidly changing media scene will be in the focus of the special BBC Bangla programme to be broadcast on Channel i, marking the 70th anniversary of BBC Bangla in the year of the 40th anniversary of Bangladesh?s independence.

Produced by BBC Bangla in collaboration with Channel i and moderated by BBC Bangla Editor, Sabir Mustafa, the programme, Freedom of information in the internet age, will debate issues raised by the spread of television and advent of social media.
The debate panel will include: Adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, H T Imam; Editor of News Today, Reazuddin Ahmed; and Abu Saeed Khan, Secretary General of AMTOB, the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh. An invited audience of some 200 people will ask the questions.
Sabir Mustafa will moderate the debate, asking about the challenges facing the traditional and new media: ?These challenges are coming from the social media revolution which has opened up new avenues to exchange information and debate. They are also coming from governments and other regulatory bodies which seek to restrict the freedom of the established media through legislation and to restrict the use of social media.?
The pre-recorded hour-long debate will be followed by an hour-long live studio discussion during which BBC Bangla presenter, Akbar Hossain, and studio guests – photographer and blogger Shahidul Alam of Drik, and leading journalist and former president of National Press Club, Shawkat Mahmud – will discuss comments on the topic, texted by viewers using the short code 16262.
The panel debate will be broadcast by Channel i at 7.50pm Bangladesh time on Thursday 22 December, and at 8pm on Saturday 24 December on BBC 100 FM in Dhaka and on shortwave 12035kHz and 9800kHz. The live discussion will go on air on Channel i at 7.50pm Bangladesh time on Friday 23 December.

Siege of Drik Gallery

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New Age Editorial

THE siege, so to speak, of the Drik Gallery by the police on Monday, to force cancellation of a photo exhibition on extrajudicial killings by acclaimed photographer and Drik managing director Shahidul Alam, not only undermined the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution of the republic but also put the entire nation to shame. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, the police, along with the Rapid Action Battalion and the Special Branch of police, had, from midday onwards, put pressure on the Drik management to not hold the exhibition on the ground that it did not have official permission and that it might cause ?unrest in the country?, before they cordoned off the gallery half an hour before the inauguration of the show. Subsequently, the organisers were forced to hold an impromptu inaugural ceremony on the road in front of the gallery.
The reasons cited by the police appear somewhat dodgy. As Shahidul Alam pointed out, Drik has been ?arranging shows since 1993 and no permission has ever been required.? Other galleries in the capital and elsewhere in the country would certainly make the same observations. In other words, even if there is a provision in the Dhaka Metropolitan Police ordinance that makes obtaining permission for an exhibition mandatory, neither the organisers of such exhibitions have deemed it necessary to comply with it, nor have the police themselves shown any urgency with regard to its enforcement. The question then is why the police deemed it invoke a provision that is seldom enforced. The answer may be found in the remark of an assistant commissioner of police quoted in the New Age report. ?The organisers did not obtain official permission although exhibitions on sensitive issues require prior permission,? he said.
Indeed, the issue that the Drik exhibition deals with, i.e. extrajudicial killings, is sensitive. It is, perhaps, more sensitive for the police and the Rapid Action Battalion because they are the prime perpetrators of such killings. It is, perhaps, equally sensitive for the government since it has not only failed to rein in the trigger-happy law enforcers despite widespread criticism and condemnation, at home and abroad, of extrajudicial killings and, most importantly, embargo by the highest judiciary but also appeared, of late, to be trying to justify such blatant violation of the rule of law by the supposed protectors of law. It is unlikely that the police acted on Monday beyond the knowledge of the government, which could only indicate that the incumbents may be even willing to foil any attempt at creating public awareness of, and thus mobilising public opinion against, extrajudicial killings, which is what the Drik photo exhibition appears to be. It is ironic that the ruling Awami League promised, in its election manifesto, to put an end to extrajudicial killings.
As indicated before, the police action not only was in contravention with the constitution but also put the entire nation to shame. The inauguration of the exhibition was scheduled to be followed by the launch of the Pathshala South Asian Media Academy, and the guest of honour was none other than celebrated Indian writer and human rights activist Mahashweta Devi. There were also celebrated personalities from some other countries. In other words, the police enacted the shameful episode in front of such an august gathering tarnishing, in the process, the image of the nation as a whole.
While we condemn the police action, we demand that the government order immediate withdrawal of the police cordon around the Drik Gallery and thus allow the exhibition to continue unhindered. It is the least that the government should do.

DAILY STAR Editorial

Police action against Drik exhibition:It undercuts people’s political and cultural rights
THE police action, stopping the Drik gallery exhibition of images relating to the incidents of ‘crossfire’ in Bangladesh, is a case of oppression and curtailment of our fundamental rights of freedom of expression, speech, information and cultural expression. On Monday, just before the exhibition was to be inaugurated by eminent Indian intellectual Mahasweta Devi, policemen positioned themselves before the gallery in Dhanmondi and simply refused to let anyone enter or come out of its premises. By way of explanation, they told the media that Drik gallery did not have permission to organise the exhibition.
The question of permission is totally uncalled for. There are hundreds of photo exhibitions and other such functions of public viewing happening everyday in the capital city. Did their organisers have to seek permission in each case to be holding these? Drik itself has been organising such events since 1993. Never was any permission required or sought or demanded by any agency. Exhibitions such as these have educative, informational and instructive values. Free flow of ideas helps enrich intellectual wealth of the country, broadens its outlook and enhances the level of tolerance in a society of contrary or dissenting views. There may be a debate on an issue but it doesn’t mean people on one side of an issue need not hear or refuse to see the other’s point of view.
This is exactly the level of maturity we crave for and have actually reached in certain areas of national life which must not be allowed to be undone through any ham-handed act of indiscretion. If the police become the arbiter of what is right and what is wrong for our society, then God help us.
Let certain facts be made clear. Democracy entails a guarantee and preservation of the political and cultural rights of citizens. In such a setting, the sensitivities of certain individuals or groups or bodies cannot override the bigger demands of an open, liberal society which the present government espouses as policy. Now, if the police or any other agency is upset at a revelation of the sordid truth that ‘crossfires’ have been, they should be making sure that such extra-judicial killings do not recur. The fault lies not with Drik gallery that it organised the exhibition. It lies in the inability or reluctance of the authorities to dig into the question of why ‘crossfire’ killings are today a reprehensible affair. Besides, why must the authorities forget that by preventing what they think is adverse publicity for the country they are only making it more pronounced before the nation and the outside world?
We condemn the police action. And we would like the home minister to explain to citizens how such acts that clearly militate against the people’s right to know and observe and interpret conditions can at all take place.

News in Netherlands

Widespread condemnation of closure of photo exhibition in Bangladesh (Power of Culture)

Prince Claus Fund partner closed down by police (Metropolis M)

News in UK

?Crossfire? censored ? the power of documentary photography (Prof. David Campbell)

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

PRESS RELEASE

23 March 2010
Bangladesh: Lift ban on extrajudicial killings exhibition. Amnesty International is urging the Bangladeshi authorities to lift a ban on an exhibition of photographs raising awareness about alleged extrajudicial executions carried out by a special police unit.
?Yesterday?s closure of the Drik Picture Library exhibition ?Crossfire? in Dhaka is a blow to the right to freedom of expression,? said Amnesty International?s Bangladesh Researcher, Abbas Faiz. ?The?government of Bangladesh must act immediately to lift the police ban and protect the right to peaceful expression in words, images or any other media in accordance with Bangladesh?s constitution and?international law.?
Hours before the ?Crossfire? exhibition was due to open at a special ceremony in Dhaka, police moved in and demanded that the organizers cancel it. When they refused to shut it down police closed the?premises, claiming that the exhibition had no official permission to open and would ?create anarchy?.
The exhibition includes photographs based on Drik?s case studies of killings in Bangladesh, which government officials have portrayed as deaths in ?crossfire?.
Hundreds of people have been killed in Bangladesh since 2004 when the special police force, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), was established.
In most cases, victims who die in the custody of RAB and other police personnel, are later announced to have been killed during ?crossfire? or police ?shoot-outs?.
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations consider these killings to be extrajudicial executions.
Human rights lawyers in Bangladesh see the closure of the exhibition as unjustified and with no legal basis. They are seeking a court order to lift the police ban on the exhibition.
Drik?s Director, Shahidul Alam says he has held hundreds of other exhibitions without needing official permission, and that ?the government invoked a prohibitive clause only because state repression?was being exposed?.
Abbas Faiz said:?By closing the ?Crossfire? exhibition, the government of Bangladesh has effectively reinforced a culture of impunity for human rights violations. Amnesty International is calling for the?government to take action against those who carry out extrajudicial executions, not those who raise their voices against it.?
The ban is also inconsistent with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina?s pledges that her government would take action to end extrajudicial executions.
Amnesty International is urging authorities to allow peaceful protests against the killings and to bring the perpetrators to justice.
END/
News in USA

Police in Bangladesh Close Photo Exhibit







By David Gonzalez

New York Times

Shahidul Alam had hoped his ?Crossfire? exhibit on extrajudicial killings in Bangladesh would ?shock people out of their comfort zone? and provoke a response.
He got his wish.
Minutes before the show was to open on Monday afternoon, the police shut down his gallery in the Dhanmondi district of Dhaka.
But instead of stifling public debate, the government?s action has had the opposite effect: art students have formed a human chain at the university and lawyers are preparing to bring legal action to reopen the show.
?It really has galvanized public opinion,? Mr. Alam said in a telephone interview on Tuesday from southern Bangladesh. ?People were angry and ready ? they just needed a catalyst. The exhibit has become in a sense iconic of the resistance.?
The photography exhibit was a symbolic treatment of the wave of executions carried out by the Rapid Action Battalion, an anticrime squad whose many critics say that it engages in violent social cleansing.
Rather than document actual killings ? something already done at great length by groups like Human Rights Watch ? Mr. Alam created a series of large, moody prints that touched on aspects of actual cases.
[Lens published a post and slide show, “Where Death Squads Struck in Bangladesh,” on March 16.]
Although the killings have drawn international condemnation, they have continued, despite promises by the government to rein in the battalion. Mr. Alam, a photographer, writer and activist, had hoped that his track record and international reputation would offer the ?Crossfire? show some protection.
But the police and officials from the battalion began to put pressure on him around midday, according to a press release from the gallery, insisting that the exhibit did not have the necessary official permission. As the 4 p.m. opening hour approached, the police closed the gallery, saying the show would create ?anarchy.?
With the gallery closed, Mr. Alam, his associates and invited guests put on an impromptu exhibit outside the gallery. The government?s intrusion ? without any apparent court order ? was denounced as illegal.
?The forcible closure of Drik?s premises is a blatant violation of our constitutional rights,? Mr. Alam said in a statement. ?We call upon the government to immediately remove the police encirclement, so that the exhibition can be opened for public viewing, and Bangladesh?s image as an independent democratic nation can be reinstated.?

Freedom of Expression Roundtable

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Amnesty International launches Bangla website and discusses freedom of expression in Bangladesh

8 January 2008
irene-khan-and-shahidul-alam-at-drik.jpg Feature on Korean media

MEDIA ADVISORY: Amnesty International, Drik News and Drishtipat are hosting a seminar on freedom of expression in Dhaka on January 9th at 6 pm. Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan, will talk to young journalists, bloggers and activists about the state of freedom of expression in Bangladesh. The meeting will also discuss the important role that the media can play in protecting citizen rights and steps that can be proposed to the Caretaker Government to ensure a free space for human rights defenders and journalists. Irene Khan will also launch Amnesty International?s Bangla website at this event – www.amnesty.org/bangla. The event will take place at Drik Gallery. There will be a live webcastasif-saleh-providing-live-text-feed-0926.jpg Asif Salef of Drishtipat, uploading the live text stream (text provided below). ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
irene-khan-at-freedom-of-expression-roundtable-at-drik-0940.jpg Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International speaking at the “Freedom of Expression” roundtable at Drik. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
journalist-akash-talking-of-persecution-by-military-0912.jpg Journalist Jahangir Alam Akash talking of being tortured by military while pursuing an investigation. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World. In an email Jahangir informs us: yesterday night, police went my previous house of uposhahor in rajshahi for arrest me, when i attend in a roundtable in dhaka in presence of amnesty international secretary general irene khan.participants-at-roundtable-on-freedom-of-expression-0914.jpg Participants at “Freedom of Expression” roundtable at Drik on 9th January 2007. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
irene-khan-talking-to-participants-of-freedom-of-expression-roundtable-at-drik-0947.jpg Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International speaking to participants at the “Freedom of Expression” roundtable at Drik. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Transcription by Asif Saleh/Drishtipat
Thanks to the technical team who helped set this up.
=========
greetings
the secretary general of amnesty international irene khan is with us
Shahidul Alam introducing
Irene Khan is not only a Bangladeshi but also first muslim woman head of Amnesty
We will have this show in a different format than usual
This will be a discussion and not room for speech
We want to create dialogue
Shahidul thanking all.
Irene introducing speech with a history of Amnesty
Irene talking…when I am in bangladesh from higher level it seems there is a lively media
But there must be another story
I met the army chief today and expressed my views about freedom of expression
For years now we have picked up a steady stream of journalists who have been attacked and wounded
In times of change we desperately need room for freedom of expression.
I am going to try get a complete picture from every one.
Shahidul now saying we are going to try to keep the discussion small
My name is Akash
I used to work for CSB new
The roundtable is very important for me
I want to get a little bit of time for myself.
because my rights have been severely hampered
Akash describing the story of how his rights were violated
I reported a story in CSB news when a father was shot by RAB infront of his daughter and I got persecuted for this.
Akash describing the process in details….how he has been fleeing for 3 months
he has been living a crippled life for the past 3 months
The oppression that happened to me
Akash has broken down in tears
Describing the judicial process.
Even though the high court has given him bail but still the local court still has issued a warrant against me.
There may be a lot more Akashes out there
Jahirul Huq Tito , Manik Saha to name a few over the years.
I want to live a free life
I want to go back to my profession.
and work for humanity
I want to dream of a new Bangladesh…I don’t want the oppression that has happened against me to happen to any body else,
Irene is speaking
We knew about your case
When you were in detention, I explained your case very forcefully to the foreign adviser.
You said that you do not want justice but just want to live and that shows the desperation of the case.
I want to assure you that Amnesty will do every thing they can.
parvin Sultana asks whether irene feels that we have press freedom in Bangladesh
sanjib drong of adivasi forum speaks..
Describes the case of Cholesh Richil..who was killed on March in Modhupur.
by the joint forces
The killing on the indigenous community is always justified.
I want to request you to take up the case of cholesh richil and follow through.
The perpetrators know that if indignous leaders are killed then nothing happens and that is only going to encourage more killing
I would like Amnesty to find out at what stage the investigation reports are held
Irene speaks.
Irene: We have already picked up the case and already spoke to high level cases.
High level admins
There has been no prosecution on the case
A crime has been committed but no justice has been serveed.
Pavel partha speaks
I want to highlight the violence of the multinational companies.
Companies like Monsanto ..
Our natural resouces are being stolen,
cases like Phulbari is an example of what multinationals can do in the name of progress
Corporations are violating our rights
we want to know what Amnesty can do to highlight this…
Faruq Wasif of Prothom Alo speaks
thank you irene..
Your coming to Bangladesh and solving individual cases are not the solution
we want to highlight the case of 1971….Amnesty was silent during the war of 71
Similarly your stand in this visit was very mild.
Doesn’t it show a very tolerant view of Amnesty towards military regimes?
Omi Rahman Pial speaks from bdnews24…
I am a blogger
What is the limit of my work?
I see Akash in front of me and I fear what may happen to me and what I need to do so that it doesn’t happen to me?
We have lots of irregularities and working under lots of pressure…
I can’t publish news at the right time because our internet will be brought down , calls will be made etc.
Jornalist from Samakal
We are living in an era of depression rather than free expression
I want to hear from Irene — how is she explaining Bangladesh’s current state.
I want to understand the total role of Amnesty in current Bangladeshi situation.
Anisur Rahman from New Age speaks
Cholesh is from my village
Cholesh was a symbol of free expression as well.
Cholesh used to speak for others in the community.
That’s why Cholesh was targetted
They tried not to kill the person Chalesh but silence a whole community.
Garments workers are not getting their salaries but when they are protesting, they are being taken to court.
Also want to highlight the case of tasneem khalil
We don’t know where he is today,
He was a blogger and a journalist at Daily Star.
We are seeing freedom of expression only for a few folks in certain commissions of the government.
He is now talking about some inconsistencies on tax loop holes
not sure..why 🙂
those who are on the web…this is not alam…but asif.
Shahidul asks to keep things shorts
Biplab Rahman , a blogger and journalist speaks
highlights internet monitoring.
telephone tapping
I have done a lot of research on Chittagong Hill tracks
and I want to highlight why mobile network is not there is those 3 disrticts
Therer were towers placed by the telecom companies but it was taken down by the local armed forces
I wanted to highlight the cases of university teachers as well…and think they should be released
Tipu Sultan from Prothom Alo speaks.
The journalists outside Dhaka lives under severe restriction
All the news are screened by authorities
They can not send the news of fertiliser crisis because of joint forces restrictions
They regularly face the threat of extortion cases from the local forces
But the authorities in Dhaka know this but they still deny it.
BUt the Dhaka journalists are doing much better compared to them.
Yesterday there was a case like that in Thaurgaon.
Udisa Islam speaks
Freelancer ..used to be in tv
Another introduction of mine is — I am the wife a teacher who were detained in Rajshahi University,
I am hearing a lot of sad stories..
but what is the worth of presenting this here?
We need to share this stories with each other ALL the time
This I am saying as a grassroots journalist,.
Last Aug 22nd whatever happened in bangladesh, everyone knows
Similarly whatever happenned with the museum statues.
The media played a brave role there.
How were those published and not some other stories?
Journalists oppression goes on for years!!
Its not because of state of emergency
Tipu Sultan (another victim) was not created under State of emergency (SOE)
it will happen again and again.
We need to talk about the whys of that..
Are we going to talk about the 20 students that still in prison from the university crisis?
Hana Shams Ahmed of Daily Star speaks
I want to highlight the kind of censorship after 1/11
We are very demoralised
speacially after the arifur Rahman incident.
We are very demoralised…and we can talk any thing about religion or army,
priscila raj speaks
Want to highlight three things….
Extra judicial killings
How can we work with International orgs to stop creatiion of organizations like RAB
In cases of State of emergency the most suffered are the people who are the most vulnerable in the society ..like the adibashies (indigenious community)
Lastly why do we never see the results of enquiry reports of the investivative commissions
Zaid Islam a photo journalist speaks
Sara Hossain speaks
I am here as a lawyer who represented some of these journalists who were victims in the last few years.
We need to talk about what we can do to stop this.
We always complain about internation conspiracy but we need to work in our own houses as well.
We don;t coordinate our work,.
I highlight time to the stories about slum dwellers and I send the reports to you journalists but no journalists show any interest..
But that is not the case if the story is about a big politician’s bail.
Amirul Rajib, a photo journalist speaks,
When a big crisis happens and media highlights the issue a lot but not many people are found to help them.
other than the family
We don’t have a infrastructure…
to handle these cases.
we all have to have our own personal network…
How can Amnesty help in all these cases to build an infrastructure.
to handle cases of oppression,
and also cases of regular engagement with the grassroots is needed from int orgs.
Anis highlights that no local journalist in Modhupur highlighted Cholesh’s case because they knew that that they will not survive if they highlighted that.
Ataur Rahman of journalists forum thanks to portray the current picture of bangladesh media today.
Amnesty needs to have a presence in Bangladesh.
I want to blame Amnesty for today’s crisis somewhat.
they need to have a presence in Bangladesh.
We have to look at what is happening in South Asia as a whole as well.
Amnesty needs to play a much stronger role.
here
Another question speaking about how unfairly he was sacked from Amnesty Bangladesh 5 years ago.
Najma Chowdhury from Shwadesh Khabor Weekly…
Do you think anything will change after your visit, Irene Khan?
Chandan Shaha from a weekly,,,
He highlights a case where a minister was sacked because of taking a bribe from a multinational
and wonders why the minister got sacked and nothing happened to the multinational.
Irrelevant talk about corruption of govt
Does Amnesty have a way to research these stories? Shouldn’t they already know these things?
Someone from Manusher jonno speaks
tallks about child rights in Bangladesh
what to do for children prisoner?
Shafiqul Huq Mithu speaks about jahirul Huq Tito in Pirojpur.
another journalist who has been taken in to jail by the admin.
Highlighting details of Tito’s ordeal with the court and but law enforcement agency.
Shahidul speaks,
Highlighting the permission that he had to take for the event..
at World press freedom day.
which says that there you can not criticise the govt in such cases.
We are violating law here by criticizing the govt…Shahidul mockingly reminds Irene,
You all highlighted a lot of cases here..
As journalist you tend to be in the present.
But the activists have to take a longer term perspective..otherwise it gets very depressing…
You all talked about today…but we need to talk about the past as well.
When you take a long term view of human rights, there is not a supported political system where human rights are violated…
go back from 1971…there is a thread of impunity where human rights violations have been left unquestioned
National Human Rights Commission is something that can be very powerful
Whether it is going to be a watchdog or a lapdog, it will all depend on how much pressure we ALL can create
A lot of people told me that this year extra judicial killiing have been reduced…but I am not satisfied by such replies.
We need to highlight why they are going on and what is being done to stop it.
ON freedom of expression..
Irene asking why all the draconian rules are necessary under state of emergency..
These rules are hanging like an axe?
for people..
One think that that has struck me after talking to a lot of people…
civil society and govt have understood clearly how they can use international laws and international civil society to protect the human rights in Bangladesh.
One thing to highlight is there is a worldwide network of human rights defenders.
Today’s event is being captured by people worldwide and that says a lot.
about this network,
We have an enormous opportunity in the internet to create a worldwide network..
that is why Amnesty is starting a Bangla Human Rights Portal for everyone.
I hope you all will take part in it and create a network.
What I am saying is not going to solve the problems.
But if we all create a noise together and work for change, change will happen.
We All need to work together.
on this.
We are hoping we will be able to make our website more interactive.
http://www.amnesty.org/bangla
Irene talking about the question on economic and social rights.
and explaining the campaign on human dignity which focuses on poverty.
what is relationship with human rights and climate change , poverty etc …
This is just a partial transcript of the whole conversation that took place.
Faruk Wasif and Irene are having an exchange over whether West has monopoly on human rights
We are closing …
thank you all
Shahidul thanking,,,Naeem, Givan, Asif for organizing this and highlighting the collaboration of a lot of people.
Shahidul ends with saying that the movement is ours whether or not Irene Khan is there or not,

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ON-LINE
LIFELINE

Photo by SHAHIDUL ALAM / DRIKFeminist writer Taslima
Nasreen in hiding after receiving
a death threat from Islamic fundamentalists
Third World activists
are using global
connections to pressure
the powers-that-be
and even save lives.
Bangladeshi photographer
Shahidul Alam
has little doubt
about the subversive
potential of the Internet
in his country.

Come out, we won’t shoot. The sound of a police megaphone jolted us to attention. After they left our little flat in Dhaka I went up to the roof to try and find the person they thought we were hiding. I found no-one, but the raid made us realize that the nine-year-old dictatorship of General Ershad was feeling the pressure.
Running Drik, a photo library set up to promote a more positive view of developing countries, we were already in the business of disseminating information. Up to this point we had managed quietly to distribute our photographs abroad through helpful friends. Now the need was more urgent: we had to prevent further bloodshed. We couldn’t phone or fax since none of us had an overseas line. Two days later in December 1990, when General Ershad did finally step down, we began collecting the money for the line.
The need came quickly. The new government elected a few months later turned out to be less than democratic after all. So in 1994 we decided finally to take the leap into high-tech communications. We linked up with TOOL, an overseas NGO, and set up our own electronic mail network, called DrikTAP. There was no way we could afford faxes, let alone telephone calls and mail was much too slow. Now with an ordinary telephone line we could send messages overseas cheaply.
We soon discovered that others were keen to jump into e-mail too, so we began to offer it as a service to local NGOs and activists. UNICEF and the Grameen Bank were amongst the first to join. Grameen was in the business of giving loans to the poor and had a wide rural base. UNICEF had field offices all over the country. They used our network to link up all their offices country-wide. Then Drik began to send photographs via e-mail. Something that could only be done earlier by big Western agencies like AP, AFP and Reuters.
Now our little network was beginning to connect to other like-minded groups and Drik was becoming known as an organization out to change the way the poorer countries were perceived. Our ‘bulletin boards’ were useful for everyday things like renting a flat or locating an expert but crucial when we needed to stay in touch in times of danger.
Two months later the Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasreen received a death threat from Islamic fundamentalists and was charged with blasphemy by the Government. We needed to move quickly – to create national and international pressure so Taslima could come out of hiding and defend herself in court. We managed to alert PEN (the international writers support group) and Amnesty International and the campaign took off. Our fragile network was working. Later one of our members showed us how to use traditional ‘search engines’ to locate human-rights groups and Bangladeshi ‘newsgroups’ overseas (Bangladesh.Soc.Culture is a good one). We knew things were going to get rougher politically and we needed a way of getting information out fast and cheap. If some of us got arrested, others could mobilize enough pressure to stop us simply ‘disappearing’.
Our network became more popular by the month. Major NGOs, universities, research groups, UN agencies, even government organizations and embassies all joined. Conferences on a wide range of subjects sprang up: music, child rights, job applications, even buy-and-sell. We had begun talking to each other and to learn to be comfortable with the medium. We started to use Bangla (albeit in roman script) so we could at least speak our own language. Overseas friends were posting our human-rights messages in the popular Bangladesh newsgroups. When police raided the university to arrest student leaders the news was round the world in hours. Letters to the Prime Minister poured in from all over giving us some breathing space and sparing some lives.
Golam Kasem, 103, Bengal's first Muslim short-story writer and the oldest user of Drik's electronic post office. Photo by SHAHIDUL ALAM / DRIK.Realizing how fragile our link was (a single telephone line connected up all our users, local and overseas) we campaigned for treating e-mail providers as special clients requiring quality lines. Though we were the leading e-mail provider in Bangladesh, DrikTAP was not fully legal – we had no ‘official’ government permission. On the other hand we were surprised that despite the amount of critical information we were pumping out over the network we had not faced any direct censorship. There had been doubts when one Drik worker was attacked and wounded and again when our server telephone line had been cut for a week. But on the whole we were getting away with it. I suppose shutting down the largest and most popular e-mail network in the country was something even the Government was reluctant to do, particularly with an election looming.
Gradually we began to find other uses for the technology. We set up training programs and eventually an e-mail club where we would meet and discuss problems. We would share the responsibilities of the network and decide collectively on future plans. It was a strange mix. The computer whiz kids and the computer illiterate, both came. Those comfortable with the technology took turns training newcomers. Political activists took on the role of lobbying for extra telephone lines and Internet access.
When Drik could no longer cope with the demand for technical support many of our more experienced members volunteered to help out answering queries. Some set up a system so users outside the capital could access the network using local calls. We began to work more as a family and the network took on a more human shape. We put up a notice for help from a local school that was struggling and a doctor offered his services. Others provided teaching aids, some gave money.
However, e-mail is still very expensive for most Bangladeshis – even local ?lites. A computer costs as much as half a year’s average salary and a modem costs more than a cow, never mind the price of a telephone line. So we began performing like an electronic post office. People come in with a floppy disk; we send their e-mail and they come back later to collect their reply. And not everyone who uses the service is an activist. Our oldest user, Golam Kasem, had just turned 103 and had never seen a computer before. I would cycle over to his house in Indira Road with a printout of a message from his grandson in Canada and next day pedal up to collect his reply. I remember the frail old man, straightening up the computer printout and adjusting his thick glasses as he held the paper by his tungsten lamp.
There are some areas though where we totally failed. Our ‘bulletin boards’ were entirely dominated by men and many of the jokes were sexist. Some even racist. When a woman user objected to a sexist statement the men retaliated viciously. A few loud voices dominated the bulletin boards. The technology was new to many people. Often private mail would get posted accidentally on a bulletin board, sometimes with embarrassing consequences – making the system scary for novices.
On the whole however, DrikTAP has become a powerful way of talking to the outside world. And, more importantly, to each other. When our ‘node’ in Bangladesh grew bigger than the one in the head office of our Northern partner in Amsterdam we argued, for political reasons, that the head office should be in the developing world. Last July we proposed re-locating the head office of our global network in Bangladesh. In a small way we are witnessing a shift in the balance of power.