Human Rights Training for Journalists in Bangladesh
Drik and INTERNEWS network request the pleasure of your company at the Awards Ceremony of ?Learning Rights to Make a Difference? a human rights training for journalists in Bangladesh on Thursday 11 August, 2011 at 5:00 pm at Drik Gallery, Dhaka.
The event will be live-streamed on Drik TV
Dr. Mizanur Rahman
Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh
Guest of Honour
Mr. Nurul Kabir
Editor, New Age
Selected work of the 17 mainstream journalists who participated in the human rights training course will be presented at this event.
Drik Gallery, Dhaka ? 11 August 2011 ? Thursday
5:00 pm (GMT +6): Audiovisual Documentation of ?Learning Rights to Make a Difference?
5:05 pm: Welcome by Shahidul Alam
5:15 pm: Presentation of Electronic Report
5:20 pm: Speech by participant (electronic)
5:25 pm: Speech by participant (print)
5:30 pm: Speech by participant (photography)
5:35 pm: Speech by Guest of Honour
5:45 pm: Speech by Chief Guest
5:55 pm: Awards Presentation
6:20 pm: Vote of Thanks by Shahidul Alam
Journalists play an important role as both, providers of information to the public and as a resource for human rights defenders demanding accountability amongst all those who wield power in the public and private domain. Shahidul Alam, Managing Director of Drik at the opening address of the training course said, ?With Bangladesh gaining geopolitical importance, many forces are at play and human rights violations have dramatically escalated with perpetrators operating with impunity. Trained journalists will play a vital role in challenging the abuse of power.?
Journalists? right to information and the right to report are the lifeblood of their profession. However, reporting on human rights issues that plague any country is a formidable task for many. The journalists often come under threats and unwarranted arrests leading to abuse by the very authorities that have been elected to provide and protect their human rights.
Drik as a premier visual media communication provider and an organisation committed to social justice, has always aspired to make Bangladesh a country where people can exercise their right to express dissent peacefully, where information will flow freely and where knowledge and skills needed for individuals to attain their full potential are made available.
The Learning Rights to Make a Difference, human rights training was thus formulated in partnership with Internews Network to train Bangladeshi journalists to learn new skills and examine in depth the special role accurate, fair and professional reporting and analysis play, in upholding human rights and supporting the peaceful resistance to human rights abuses.
The first part of the course from 19-21 July was instructional which used creative, interactive teaching methods, including presentations and discussion by guest lecturers and exchanges with human rights defenders, activists as well as victims. During the second part of the programme the participants were assigned to report on human rights issues under the supervision of trainers and mentors. The final part of the training was a review programme on 8-9 August where the assignments were openly evaluated by the trainers, mentors and the participants themselves.
It is expected that the training will help the journalists contribute towards greater transparency and accountability leading to a more participatory democracy where rights of all citizens are respected.
NO ONE loves a huge neighbour. For all that, India?s relations with the countries that ring it are abysmal. Of the eight with which it shares a land or maritime boundary, only two can be said to be happy with India: tiny Maldives, where India has the only foreign embassy and dispenses much largesse, and Bhutan, which has a policy of being happy about everything. Among its other South Asian neighbours, the world?s biggest democracy is incredible mainly because of its amazing ability to generate wariness and resentment.
Until recently it operated a shoot-to-kill policy towards migrant workers and cattle rustlers along its long border with Bangladesh. Over the years it has meddled madly in Nepal?s internal affairs. In Myanmar India snuggles up to the country?s thuggish dictators, leaving the beleaguered opposition to wonder what happened to India?s championing of democracy. Relations with Sri Lanka are conflicted. It treats China with more respect, but feuds with it about its border.
As for Pakistan, relations are defined by their animosity. One former Indian diplomat likened reconciling the two nuclear-tipped powers to treating two patients whose only disease is an allergy to each other. The observation underscores the fact that it takes two to have bad relations, and to be fair to India plenty of problems press in on it?many of them with their roots in India?s bloody partition in 1947. Pakistan has used a long-running territorial dispute over Kashmir as a reason to launch wars. It also exports terrorism to India, sometimes with the connivance of parts of the Pakistani state. India thinks Bangladesh also harbours India-hating terrorists.
With the notable exception of India?s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who has heroically persisted in dialogue with Pakistan in the face of provocations and domestic resistance, India?s dealings with its neighbours are mostly driven by arrogance and neglect. It has shared shockingly little of its economic dynamism and new-found prosperity with those around it. Just 5% of South Asia?s trade is within the region.
Too little and too late, the neglect is starting to be replaced by engagement (see?article). This week Sonia Gandhi, dynastic leader of India?s ruling Congress Party, visited Bangladesh?a first. And on July 27th India?s foreign minister hosted his Pakistani counterpart, the first such meeting in a year. He promised a ?comprehensive, serious and sustained? dialogue.
A new regional engagement is prodded by two things. China?s rapid and increasingly assertive rise challenges India?s own regional dominance. As a foundation for its rise, China pursued a vigorous ?smile diplomacy? towards its neighbours that stands in contrast to slothful Indian energies. The smile has sometimes turned to snarl of late (see?Banyan). Even so, China?s engagement with its neighbours has allowed it both to prosper and to spread influence.
interactive map displays the various territorial claims of India, Pakistan and China from each country’s perspective
Second, dynamic India can hardly soar globally while mired in its own backyard. Promoting regional prosperity is surely the best way to persuade neighbours that its own rise is more of an opportunity than a threat. Yet India lacks any kind of vision. A region-wide energy market using northern neighbours? hydropower would transform South Asian economies. Vision, too, could go a long way to restoring ties that history has cut asunder, such as those between Karachi and Mumbai, once sister commercial cities but now as good as on different planets; and Kolkata and its huge former hinterland in Bangladesh. Without development and deeper integration, other resentments will be hard to soothe. It falls on the huge unloved neighbour to make the running. BBC Documentary on Sino-Indian Rivalry and Bangladesh
As government faces increasing criticism over its controversial deal with ConnocoPhillips and pressure mounts to force the government to reveal the contract, an oil spill in China lends weight to the protesters claims that the company has a poor safety record.
ConocoPhillips Halts Oil Operations In Bohai Bay, China
China said Wednesday it had ordered ConocoPhillips to immediately stop operations at several rigs in an area off the nation’s eastern coast polluted by a huge slick.
The 336-square-mile slick emanating from the oil field in Bohai Bay — which ConocoPhillips operates with China’s state-run oil giant CNOOC – has sparked outrage amid allegations of a cover-up.
On Wednesday, the State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said operations would not be allowed to resume before the source of the spill was fully plugged and “risks eliminated,” as fears over the long-term impact on the environment grow.
“There has been oil seeping continuously into the sea for days from platforms B and C in the Penglai 19-3 oil field and there is still a slick in the surrounding marine areas,” the SOA said in a statement.
“Another spill could happen at any time, which has posed a huge threat to the oceanic ecological environment,” it said, adding it had ordered Houston-based ConocoPhillips to stop operations at those platforms.
Spill ‘Basically Under Control’
CNOOC last week said the spill — which was detected on June 4 but only made public at the beginning of July — was “basically under control” while ConocoPhillips told reporters the leaks had been plugged.
The official China Daily newspaper last week said that dead seaweed and rotting fish could be seen in waters around Nanhuangcheng Island near the site of the slick.
It quoted a local fisheries association official as saying the oil leak would have a “long-term” impact on the environment.
CNOOC has been slammed by state media and green groups over the spill, and it emerged on Tuesday that the firm was cleaning up another slick after a breakdown at a rig off the northeast coast.
The state-run giant said the leak was “minor”.
In a separate incident, a CNOOC refinery in the southern province of Guangdong caught fire Monday but there were no casualties, the company said, adding that the cause of the blaze was still under investigation.
The refinery is located about 25 miles from the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011
The regular weekly “Solidarity for Limon” rally had been steadily attracting bigger crowds, despite the monsoon rains. The gathering this Friday the 24th June 2011 was especially large. The street plays were popular and since this was not an event aligned to either of the main political parties, it attracted ordinary people who came to express solidarity, or merely to enjoy the performance.
This week’s performance, a drama called Khekshial (Jackal), performed by Aranyak Natyadal in front of the National Museum at around 4:30pm, was however disrupted when two men burst through the surrounding crowd and began wrecking the props.
Attack visible from 8 mins 58 secs onwards. The audience, intially slow to react, as they thought it was part of the play, soon went after the men, but they disappeared into the crowd. Later a young man called Al-Amin was caught by the crowd and accused of being one of the attackers. The man was taken away by Shahbag police, who arrived sometime after the event. The police are reported to have released Al-Amin as he was an innocent by-stander.
The organisers have pledged to continue their protests until the government withdraw the false cases against Limon Hossein and provide adequate compensation for the loss of his leg.
`Attack on demo for Limon,’ bdnews24
Fri, Jun 24th, 2011 8:23 pm BdST
and, `Goons attack demo for Limon,’ New Age, 25/06/2011 00:42:00
In the end, treachery will betray even itself.
When the prime minister, the finance minister etc., not known for being democratically-oriented, feel obliged to respond publicly according to the terms and conditions set by the National Oil-Gas Committee, it is clear that the tide is shifting.
It is clear that? the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports (NCPOGMR) has made a significant impact on public consciousness. That there is a growing national awareness of the issue of ownership of natural resources; of the terms on which production sharing contracts are signed with international oil companies (IOCs); a growing suspicion that exporting extracted gas may not be the best way of solving the nation’s energy shortfall. More precisely, of the hollowness of the government’s reasoning as to why gas blocks need to be, must necessarily be, leased out to multinational companies.? More broadly, of whether the nation’s ruling class, regardless of which political party is in power, does act in the interests of the nation, of its people.
It is clear from what top ruling party leaders are now obliged to say, to repeatedly say, we are patriotic, we are not treacherous, that they have been forced to cede ground.
It is clear that a moral battle has been won. Continue reading “De-energising Bangladesh”
The bulldozers are warming up: any moment now a massively destructive coal mine could be approved in northwest Bangladesh that would displace tens of thousands of families, destroy vital farmland, and devastate mangrove forests that protect the climate-fragile country from rising sea levels.
A movement of local protesters has stopped the mine once before, and this week they bravely blocked major roads in a desperate bid for the government’s attention. But the global consortium backing the mine has launched a massive lobbying effort to win, flying MPs to Europe for VIP coal tours. Wikileaks cables even show the US ambassador lobbying for them.
Now, the movement has appealed to our global network for solidarity — to raise a worldwide outcry to counter the international financiers and stop this mine. Prime Minister Hasina has spoken out against the mine, but she is under enormous pressure to approve it. Let’s build a massive petition urging the Prime Minister to side with her citizens and their environment by rejecting the devastating mine — local organisations will deliver it to the Prime Minister and consortium if we reach 300,000 signatures.
People’s Resistance to Global Capital and Government Collaboration is Vindicated
In reality, WikiLeaks leak of diplomatic cables from US Embassy, Dhaka reveal nothing new, they only serve to confirm what many of us across the world knew.
But before writing about open-pit coal mining and Asia Energy’s US$1.4 billion Phulbari project, I’d like to remind readers that in `Is there more to WikiLeaks than meets the eye?’ I agreed with skeptics who thought Julian Assange, director of WikiLeaks, had been “compromised.” That the “selective” nature of the data suggests WikiLeaks has possibly been “manipulated” by interested parties (New Age, Monday Dec 6, 2010). Since then, stronger reasons have emerged.
WikiLeaks’ enlistment of the “very architects of media disinformation”?The New York Times, the Guardian, der Spiegel?to “fight media disinformation” is suspect, writes professor Michel Chossudovsky (Dec 13, 2010). While Julie Levesque raises crucial questions about how the whistleblowing site and Assange “demand transparency” from governments and corporations around the world, but fail to provide basic information about their own organisation (Dec 20, 2010).
However, notwithstanding this, given that the documents’ authenticity are not denied by the White House, it is essential that we scrutinise them closely and “expose” the systems and structures of power (Andrew Gavin Marshall). That we expose US diplomacy as a cover for furthering imperial interests, that we expose national leaders as collaborators in this project. Further, that we vindicate those who have insisted that national development is often a cover for subjugating the nation’s and peoples’ interest. A mask which hides personal greed, and party ambitions.
The list of those exposed is long: US ambassador James F Moriarty; American and British-owned companies (Asia Energy/Global Coal Management); prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s energy advisor; members of parliament. But the cast of characters is much larger, they include ministers, bureaucrats, Petrobangla, BAPEX (Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration & Production Company), PDB (Power Development Board), major political parties, experts, intellectuals, law-enforcing agencies, doctors and significant sections of the media.
A WikiLeaked cable from US embassy, Dhaka shows that Moriarty urged Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the prime minister’s energy advisor, to authorise coal mining in Phulbari, saying that “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward” (Guardian, 21 Dec 2010). But for whom? He privately noted that “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months.” According to the cables, Chowdhury admitted to Moriarty that the coal mine was “politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land” but agreed to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.
This leak confirms the insistence of the National Committee for the Protection of Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, that efforts to extract Bangladesh’s natural resources are commandeered by global capital to benefit multinational and transnational companies (MNC/TNCs), and their national accomplices. It confirms that long histories of impoverishment and oppression of local communities are not only to be ignored, policies leading to their extinction are to be approved by the government. That resistance, both nationwide and local, is to be circumvented through processes initiated by the nationally-elected parliament.
The proposed Phulbari Coal Project, through creating one of the biggest open-pit coalmines in the world would destroy 10,000 hectares including productive farmland in an area that serves as an “agricultural breadbasket” for Bangladesh. According to the 2008 Expert Committee Report commissioned by the Bangladesh government, nearly 130,000 people would be forcibly evicted from their homes and lands. Members of the National Committee say, numbers evicted are likely to be ten times more, environmental consequences promise to be disastrous. A dramatic increase in coal-based energy production will increase greenhouse gas emissions, and greatly aggravate the country’s vulnerability to climate change. Interestingly, Sheikh Hasina urged donors?US, European Union, World Bank, Asian Development Bank?to increase the pledged climate fund in February, but spoke only of building cyclone shelters.
Asia Energy, before metamorphosing into GCM, was forced to shut down its operations after paramilitary forces opened fire on peaceful protests of thousands gathered in Phulbari, killing Salekin, Tariqul and 14 year old Ameen, injuring hundreds, on 26 August 2006.
Moriarty pushes for re-opening the Phulbari project in July last year, the energy advisor agrees. Let’s look back and see what happened. On September 2, the National Committee calls for a siege of Petrobangla, “a den of MNCs.” Police suddenly launch an attack on the peaceful procession. Baton charge, kicks, punches. Very brutal. Anu is targeted in particular, blows aimed at his head are foiled by brave young activists. Members of the public are outraged, both government and opposition leaders, including Khaleda Zia, rush to the hospital.
Anu is admitted to Square hospital, incidentally, owned by the Square Group, whose managing director Tapan Chowdhury, was power and energy adviser to the military-installed caretaker government (2007-2008). No broken bones, but heavily swollen feet from police kicks. Doctors advise plaster casts for a month. The Health minister Dr Ruhul Haque visits Anu on the 5th day, his casts are suddenly removed, he’s issued a discharge certificate for having “improved satisfactorily” though he couldn’t stand up. Needless to say, healing was very painful and prolonged (Doctoral Complicity, New Age, Nov 9, 2009).
The agriculture minister Motia Chowdhury, prime minister’s advisor H T Imam visit Anu in hospital. Sheikh Hasina returns from China on September 6, discussions will be held with the National Committee. The government will not violate the national interest. Reassuring words, but the Committee learns on 9 September that immediately after her return Hasina approved the file for signing the contract. Khaleda Zia had extended her moral support to the Committee but after receiving a visit from the US ambassador falls silent. The so-called `battling begums’ (The Economist), and their followers, unitedly fall in line with the US Ambassador’s suggestions.
The acute shortage of electricity is a “manufactured” crisis, insists B D Rahmatullah, former director general of the Power Cell (ministry of power, energy and mineral resources). Derated power plants need to be rated, the PDB chairman knows this very well. But repairing and maintaining government power plants, setting up new ones, doesn’t produce perks, you don’t get to own a house abroad. Niko and Chevron’s agents have penetrated the Ministry, they want to extract the most in the shortest possible time. The IPP (Independent Power Producers) policy was prepared after a tour to Washington financed by the World Bank. There’s corruption in Malaysia and India too, but our engineers are willing to sell their country just for a ticket abroad, they don’t stand up to the Indians like they do in Nepal, Malaysia and Bhutan. The cross-border electricity initiative between India and Bangladesh will cost 1,200 crore takas, it’ll provide 500 megawatts, whereas a similar power plant could’ve been built here for only 600 crore takas. It demonstrates the government’s subservient attitude towards the Indian government (Budhbar, Aug 18, 2010).
None of the higher-ups in the energy ministry have rebutted what Rahmatullah said. Nor has the energy advisor sued Nurul Kabir for libel. A TV anchor had gently warned him recently, to which Kabir had replied, he would welcome it, it would provide him with the opportunity of pleading his case before the court.
Governments change but power structures and vested interests don’t, say Anu and Rahmatullah. I agree. The AL government awarded Asia Energy its licence in 1998. Khaleda Zia’s regime cracked down on Phulbari’s protestors in 2006. Her energy adviser, Mahmudur Rahman (currently imprisoned) blamed “a small group of leftist parties without any influence whatsoever” for orchestrating the deaths and injury. Sentiments echoed by Asia Energy’s CEO, “the fault [lies entirely with] the organisers” (`You cannot eat coal.’ New Age, Aug 19, 2008). The energy advisor’s promise of building support for open-pit mining materialises further.
Finance minister AMA Muhith in his 2010 budget speech stresses the need for creating a favourable public opinion toward open pit-mining. Petrobangla chairman demands at least two open-pit coal mines be started. The land ministry has begun land acquisition at Barapukuria to open its coal deposit; it is offering locals high compensation.
The parliamentary sub-committee on energy and power visits open-pit coal mine in Germany in late October. Headed by Shubid Ali Bhuiyan, it includes the chief whip, 4 MPs, the energy and mineral resources secretary. They are “highly impressed.” The sub-committee recommends open-pit coal mining on Nov 29.
Anu, you must name names, I insist, they must be exposed. In his characteristically diffident manner Anu describes, it’s a long-drawn concerted campaign, a thick web, many people, diverse forums, same message; it’s in the interests of national development. Whether it’s Hossain Monsur, Petrobangla chairman on TV, or Nuh-ul-Alam Lenin, an ex-CPB member, now publicity secretary of AL, blaming a handful of people `absolutely devoid of common sense.’ Or secretaries, joint secretaries providing training to government officers at the PATC. Then there’s a fortnightly magazine called Energy and Power, its editor is Molla Amjad, with 2-page spreads advertising Asia Energy. Chevron, too. Power is not a commodity that consumers buy, why the need to advertise? Businessmen too, but not all, he adds. Some are opposed to handing over control to foreign companies.
Newer leaks (24 December night) reveal that Moriarty met Chowdhury, sought assurances that US-based Conoco Phillips (from among 7 bidders) be awarded two of the uncontested blocks in the Bay of Bengal, that Chevron be permitted to improve the flow in Bangladesh’s main gas pipeline. The Bangladesh government “complied,” Conoco got the contract 3 months later, in October 2009 (Business Standard/India).
New Age contacts foreign minister Dipu Moni, prime minister’s energy adviser Chowdhury seeking their comments on the Wikileaks disclosure. They avoid questions. On Thursday and Friday, they stop receiving calls. Nor do they respond to text messages (Dec 25, 2010).
Where could one find a richer cast of characters falling over their feet to be handmaidens of global capital, working hard against the interests of the nation and its people, including the so-called `battling begums’?
Salam, people of Phulbari, for you are our true leaders. Published in New Age, Monday December 27, 2010
Related links: Wikileaks cables: Bangladesh Gas More?Long March Images Long March You cannot eat coal: Resistance in Phulbari A beginner’s guide to democracy Bangladesh Now Profits versus the poor
Moshrefa Mishu, president of the Garments Workers Unity Forum, who was admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) last night, is under strict police surveillance at the hospital. Although she is in a woman’s ward, she is being guarded by both police men and women who surround her bed 24 hrs. It is very inconvenient and distressful for both Mishu and other patients in the ward as many are confined to their bed and have to use bedpans.
Her breathing difficulties have largely eased but her back pain is still severe, she is largely immobile; her sister told me that she cannot turn in bed without any assistance. X-ray and ECG tests were conducted today; she was taken to the examination room on a stretcher as she cannot sit upright.
Media reportage last night after news of her illness spread in Dhaka, particularly, news coverage in private TV channels, led to strict restrictions being placed on journalists and reporters today. Since no beds had been vacant when she was admitted last night, a `bed’ was improvised for her on the floor of the women’s ward; however, this afternoon she was upgraded to a `proper’ bed.
After last night’s media reporting, police are understood to have pressurised doctors at DMCH today to not allow anyone to enter the ward or to approach and talk to her. She is reported to be?receiving medical care and attention but doctors at DMCH are not answering any queries about the state of her health. If asked, they reply, they cannot say anything without the permission of the hospital’s director. Since Mishu’s falling sick — I learnt today that she had to be rushed to the National Hospital after court proceedings yesterday because she fainted when the police were helping her on to the police van to take her back to the DB headquarters — has received good coverage, it has meant `bad’ publicity for the government and has reportedly aroused the wrath of an Awami League-supporting doctor, who’s also very influential in the doctors’ association. He has threatened Mishu’s family members that she will be discharged tomorrow regardless of the state of her health.
Different labour and human rights organisations have contacted us in the meanwhile, they have expressed deep concerns over Mishu’s safety and security,?and promised to take up the matter with the Bangladesh government/ministries.
I request everyone to do the same, to spread the word, and to protest.
Tomorrow brings uncertainties, in addition to the state of her health, since Mishu’s sister is not sure whether she will actually be suddenly discharged from the hospital.
I promise to keep everyone posted.