(Updates below, most likely will continue till dawn EST)
A fellow blogger, investigative journalist, and someone I had some disagreements with recently, Tasneem Khalil has been arrested in Dhaka, as reported here, here and here. Conflicting reports as to who picked him up and for what charges.
Whatever the details, this sort of intimidation of journalists has to stop here and now! If the CTG really wants to create a democratic state, then the first step is to create a free media. Free of intimidation, free of coercion and free of fear. Otherwise, even the best intentioned of democratic reforms will come undone in the long run.
Mr. Khalil, our prayers are with you.
Update 1: Human Rights Watch statement here
Update 2: Tasneem was the CNN stringer in Bangladesh. CNN ran this story. Thank you CNN.
Mash's blog has a list of Senators and members of the Bangladeshi Congressional Caucus that you can contact if you're in the U.S. I know I get a lot of hits from the U.S. so I urge you to do this! A special envoy from Bangladesh is now in the U.S. So the sooner you do this, the better!
Salam Dhaka has regular updates on the situation. Also, visit any of the blogs on my list. Most of them are carrying this story. A small salute to the Bangladeshi blogging community for their regard for their fellow citizen, despite the distance.
I am told that the DS is following/investigating the news closely. I'm somewhat upset not having seen it on the breaking news scroll already. If they don't stand up for one of theirs, who will? Hope to see the story make headlines tomorrow. Wishful thinking?
This thing has really hit me hard. I could rant, but I don't think I can produce anything other than cheap emotionalism. And that is the last thing we need right now. Once I collect my thoughts, I'll write them out. My prayers are with him and his family.
Meanwhile, a young wife and mother spends anxious moments with her newborn in Dhaka....
Update 3: I know I promised my thoughts and avoid a rant. But In the Middle of Nowhere has done both for me, with much more eloquence and coolheadedness than I can muster at the moment. Some excerpts I found highly relevant:
"Well, I also sometimes do not agree with what Tasneem writes, but that does not justify picking up somebody under the darkness of the night to an undisclosed location for an indefinite period without showing any reason or any court order. State of Emergency! Sate of Emergency for whom? Against whom?
The men, who have picked Tasneem up, are very powerful. They are very well equipped as armed forces, thanks to the people of Bangladesh who are quite generous in funding these forces who are supposed to protect the country from foreign invasions.
I am shocked how these very professional, educated and well trained forces are using their prowess to take the law at their own hand. Tasneem’s recent arrest is an example of this trend.
The people of Bangladesh, when they welcomed this military backed government on January 11, had a different expectation from these forces. The expectation was that, as this government preaches a war against all corruption, nepotism, illegal abuse of power, they themselves would not do the same things they are here to eradicate.
If Tasneem wrote something wrong, a rejoinder could have been sent, a rebuttal could be forced on the newspaper publishing it or a case could have been filed in a court of law for a transparent delivery of justice."
Update 4: CNN has updated it's story to add this (around 1:30 EST according to Google, so I must have missed it on the first reading):
"CNN and HRW have been in contact with Bangladesh's Special Envoy to the United States, Farook Sobhan, and other officials in attempts to find information about Khalil. Sobhan told CNN it was the first he'd heard about Khalil's arrest and promised to make inquiries."
I don't know who Farook Sobhan is, neither have I ever heard anything about what kind of a man he is. But one hopes he felt embarrassed when asked about the arrest. And one hopes that he will take measures to ensure that those who caused him this embarrassment, won't cause him any further ones.
Update 5: Shahidul Alam pays a tribute to Tasneem and paints a nuanced picture of the situation in Dhaka in his blog. Will DS and PA speak up for Tasneem? Excerpts from his entry:
"Tasneem Khalil (www.tasneemkhalil.com) was one voice that they had not been able to silence. His incisive, well researched investigations flew against the culture of silence that prevailed. Mahfuz Anam, the editor of the leading English daily, The Daily Star, had proudly told me, “In all these years, not a single story had been spiked.” That was some time ago. Things were different now. The story of military involvement that Tasneem had revealed was pulled back from the press in the last minute. A commentator on the roundtable at Drik on the 3rd May, International Press Freedom Day, had equated the Daily Star and the Daily Prothom Alo with a new political party. The newspapers had elaborate reporting on the US ambassador’s love for democracy and a free press. The Drik roundtable, featuring some of the bravest journalists working in the land, went unreported. The roundtable had discussed the military, the corporate deals taking place, the heavy hand of foreign countries. It talked of deals being pushed through in the absence of dissent. Tasneem had deliberately not been asked to speak. That would be inviting trouble"
Update 6: So it's official. The first batch of "latest news" on Daily Star does not include news of Tasneem's arrest. If this were a politician, then it would have been a blaring headline (perhaps in red) and there would have been a "More details soon" sign. But it's ONLY a journalist, so the news can wait...
Isn't it our fault that when SH can't board a plane or KZ is going to Saudi, it makes us go crazy, but when "ordinary" people are in trouble, we really don't give a shit? Do we really lack pride in ourselves to this extent? Who decides who is "ordinary" and who is extra-ordinary? Some will say it's wealth. Yet, did wealth help MKA?
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
Update 7: My blog is officially becoming misinformation central. Check out the comments section.
ABC bhai, apndero hoyto bou-bachcha thekey thaaktey paarey. Taader ki obostha hoto chinta koren jodi apnakey raater gobhirey giye dhorey niye jeto. Even for sedition, there is due process. The forces have not followed them. Due process ensures dignity among other things. Something to think about if someone ever comes for you in the middle of the night and takes you off in front of wife and kids. And apnaro bou bachcha asey othoba thaakbey, Tasneemer moto, eto tuku ami sure.
Nijer desher manushrey ei rokom korben keno?
May 11, 2007at 3:31 a.m.
(Updates below, most likely will continue till dawn EST)