May 04, 2007

Media concerns

(Decided that this story needs it's own space)

It seems the government might be banning websites as well a la China. No, no, no need to worry! Your porn will be safe (doubly so if you're a government employee/BTTB linesman and can work beyond the Great Firewall of Bangladesh). They're not banning ALL websites, just those that carry "anti-state" rhetoric. Whew, that's good. 'Cause everyone knows THIS website loves the state but criticises every government for being the same, boorish, narrow-minded, colonial, paternatilistic, patriarchal, condescending, exclusive oligarchy as the last one!

But yes, back to the real issue, our paternalistic government has decided what is too much for our eyes and ears, and what is not. You see, 150 million people of BD, you all are still CHILDREN. You don't know the CRAAAAZZZZYYY *insert jazz hands* ideas that are out there. Your government is simply trying to protect you. Unfortunately you all are also children of a very, very poor father who cannot provide for you and beats you up if you want more. He wants you to move into a market economy, but alas without the latest technologies to ensure that the market economy can function with near-perfect information. See he wants you to take initiative, but doesn't want you to KNOW anything that might help you take initiative. Hey, here's a pickle: does a site showing rising unemployment in some region of Bangladesh qualify as "anti-state"? Just wait for a call from your friendly, neighbourhood PID-officer... or maybe 25 of them.


Daily Star carries a story about a UNDP and Media Initiative for Public Policy organised discussion on the "Right to Information" act. The headlines say that the speakers asked the government to implement this act immediately and even "pointed out several loopholes in the draft copy". Would those loopholes concern "anti-state material"?

Typically, the relevant government advisor talked his way around this demand. A few choice quotes with praise and blame assigned where due:

1. ""If the people do not have confidence in an elected government, the laws will be ineffective. The people must have the ability to uphold democracy and make the government refrain from doing anything that jeopardises their rights," he said." - Advisor Mainul Hosein, I applaud you for saying this. I hope you give people access to unfettered information. Unfettered by things such as censors, firewalls and book-burning committes. Because lack of knowledge will mean that the people will (a) not know what the government is up to so as to make it "refrain from doing anything that jeopardises their rights" and/or (b) oppose the government on the wrong issues, based on purely suspicion, thus further giving credence to the colonial myth of Bangalis as an "over-emotional", "easily-duped" people who must be led.

2.""The issues of bringing reforms to different sectors, including democracy, judicial system and the mass media, have come to the fore due to corruption and the failure of our politicians. As the state system was also being criminalised, the country could not be run without the military help," the adviser said." - Correct me if I'm wrong Sir, but when did the question of reforms in mass media ever come about? And what do corrupt politicians have to do with it? Why, even NTV ran news critical of the BNP regime and gave full coverage to AL events! But hey, media reform might just be the next BIG thing. So don't be surprised to see some more editors picked up and put in jails. Oh and by "reform", I do mean silencing dissent.

3. "He also said, "As we are going through the state of emergency and a great crisis, we express our concern over different issues on different occasions. Journalists must understand that we are here not to remain in power and sometimes we advise you out of tension. Do not think that our mistakes or advices are ill-motivated."
The adviser also called on journalists to remain careful, saying, "Some journalists and editors also misuse power to carry out different types of activities. Journalists should also bring about reforms within themselves.""
- Ohh I see! So you're just WORRIED about the state of the media and tense that they may cause trouble! Within three paragraphs, you've lost my trust Advisor. Here's how: your tension results in media censorship. That leads to the deterioration in quality of media coverage. As a result, we don't get served. That's about all the reform the media needs. I don't see you contributing to it.

But I agree with you. The media IS the reason for all our troubles. If they did not report on the nasty things that other people were doing, then the rest of us could go to sleep at night and not be worried unduly. I completely, COMPLETELY see your point.

I don't think the Honourable Advisor will ever read this, but for those of you wondering about my rage, here's the low-down: throughout the 90s media freedom was the only thing that seemed to be getting better. True, people were getting beaten up, but a lot more were taking courageous stances to address more and more "taboo" political issues. Now, we seem to be regressing, back to the general, back to emergency, back to BAKSAL. But then, the 70s were a cool time to be alive, huh?


nazmul said...

(With all the respect to Pastor Martin Niemöller)

First they came for ghoroa rajnity
I did not say any thing cause i was not a ghoroa rajnitibid

Then the came for the websites
I did not bother cause i dont run websites

Then the came for the newspaper and other media
I did not blink cause ..........

I think I heard this story before from other army backed govts
(hopefully I will be mistaken this time in BD and I will be happier none the less )

Freedom is never free so we must be ever vigilant

good blog Asif. Keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

This comment is in no way anti-state.

Please don't ban me :) I smell the freedom that Advisor Mainul and his cohorts are peddling. And it smells like [censored for being anti-state].

Asif said...

Careful Mash, otherwise both Altman's and Kubrick's movies are gonna be unwelcome in Dhaka!