November 01, 2007

Updated: The Curious Silence of the Watchdog

Update: In the spirit under which this blog operates, I link Mr. Nazim Farhan's Chowdhury's response to Mash's post yesterday here. While I don't agree completely with him as to why the media has remained silent on this case, I'll let it pass for now and simply say this: if reputations are what keeps journalists away, then we have come to a sad state for the media. Please refer to Rumi bhai's excellent post linked below titled Fallen Heroes.

I hope Mr. Aggrieved comes back to read this update and sees that we're not out "gunning for" anyone, nor are we giving in to populist baying for the blood of "the aristocracy". This blog has simply asked WHY the media has not covered a story deemed worthy of public interest. We respect the Chowdhury's right to privacy as much as we respect any citizen's. However, the trappings of power (and NOT their reputation!) means that they should expect (encourage?) reporting on their affairs to be greater than a Paban's or a Joynal's, not less. Yet, how many reports have we had on the respective stories?

Lastly, if I ever see any commenter use that "forgot (?!!!)" again for a piece on media censorship, I will crown them the king of irony. One cannot forget what one did not know in the first place. Thanks to Mr. N.F. Chowdhury, the cloud is somewhat cleared.


Today's post will be short and sweet. It asks one question; which court cases and/or accusations should the media focus on, the ones made against private citizens or the ones against highly placed government officials? Even if those cases have nothing to do with their performance as public officials?

I ask because even as the newspapers are full of a litany of accusations against an "infamous" Paban (a private citizen) and a Purbani director/owner (a private citizen), there is near complete silence on the Geetiara Safia Chowdhury story.

Now please don't mistake me: innocent until proven guilty for all. I'm sure that there can be an innocent explanation for the entire matter, and that it is the accusers of the Chowdhury family who are the real culprits. My interest lies less in their innocence or guilt than in the near-complete silence of the media on a story of public interest, precisely because it involves a public figure, albeit in her other hat as a private entrepreneur. Precisely the sort of conflicts of interest that we have been quick to label "corruption".

What's stopping people who clamoured about the watchdog role of the media for the last five years from fulfilling their duties in the changed circumstances of 1/11? Anyone?

Related: Mrs. Chowdhury's son, Nazim Farhan Chowdhury's blog.

The Fallen Heroes.

And for whoever's counting: deshi blogs - 2, deshi media - 0.


tacit said...

I'd also like to point out the fact that the "alleged" victim in this case is a professor from America, and thus far better able to articulate his grievances, and able to tap into the one group of Bangladeshis who can speak up right now (the expatriates, NRBs). And still, only one Bangladeshi paper (Daily Dinkal) carried the news. If Shadakalo hadn't carried it, I'd never have been aware of it myself.

So, ever wonder about how many incidents may be going on in our country like this that we are not hearing about?

I have a second question. A big deal is being made out of all the money and jewelry found in the residence of the Purbani Hotel Director. What is the legal basis of confiscating all the money and jewelry from his house? I mean, it seems like unless they can show it's untaxed, or stolen, or something like that, private property should not be so cavalierly handled.

Ah well, at least, I'm sure a few wives of various RAB officers will suddenly find themselves much more bejewelled.

Aggrieved said...


You forgot (?!!!) to mention few points

1)Till February 2007, the Islams had been wiling to renew the lease.

2) They asked the Chowdhurys to move the Adcomm and its subsidiaries, Signage, and Megavision to move offices by the end of September.

3)The tenants asked for a little extra time as after consideration it seemed that it would be impossible to shift offices and change paper work for all three organizations by the 30th of September. The Islams refused.

4)On 5th October 2007, the Islams cut off the power supply of their tenants leaving over 100 people without electricity and running water. The tenants filed a case against the Islams.

6)When the tenants tried to get their own power,the Islams showed up and resisted.

7)Islams called a press conference to tell their tale, but were unable to back it up with evidence (witnesses, paper work etc). Hence only the dying Dinkal published their story.

8) Till date the Islams haven’t gone to the police or court to act on their story, as they have no proof.

9) You have also forgotten to mention that Adcomm, Signage and Megavision are still occupying the buildings because they have a staying order from the court. They are still without power, because their merciful building owners, Mr and Mrs Islam refuse to turn the power back on. This is against the law.

DhakaShohor said...


I don't know whether you really know the meaning of the word "forget". I cannot forget what I don't know!

If you are part of the aggrieved party, you should call a press conference and/or inform us bloggers RESPECTFULLY as to your side of the story. Please re-read my post. It does not say that the Islams were right and the Chowdhury's were wrong.


Do you have an answer to that? If not, don't bother commenting on my blog and imputing motives behind my post. Your parentheses are not appreciated.... "sir"!

Rezwan said...

Also interesting is this comment in the Mash's post:

# Salma Says:
November 2nd, 2007 at 6:00 pm

To Mr. Nazim Farhan Chowdhury. It is sad that an intelligent person like you is trying to mislead the storyline here. Please note that the case in question was not a tenancy issue. A criminal offense was alleged that involved physical assault, according to the press conference held by Mr. Mahbub and his wife. Apart from referring to the “people in Badda” again and again you are totally silent about that.

An allegation involving physical assault with connection to a cabinet member, itself has some news value. Is it not strange when some women’s private life are open to full public view in newspapers because of the allegation that they are Yaba addicts, such criminal allegation against a minister is not news even!

Mr. Farhan, it is very funny that you claim about reputation and all that. Say, the holy Khatib of Baitul Mukarram commits a crime, is it a reporter’s job to get his charecter certificate and do news?

As a sub-editor of a daily, I will tell you a story.

Only one reporter turned up in that press conference. No other newspaper reporter turned up. Not becasue of reputation BUT because of a phone call from one Mrs. Tareque (of Adcomm) to advertising managers of newspapers “requesting” them to ignore that. Every one in Dhaka newspapers know this and you come here to bring allegations aganist bloggers! They were not even bringing allegation, they were mention the above mentioned fact only.

DhakaShohor said...

I saw that as well Rezwan bhai. I'd like to believe too that the Chowdhurys are innocent, but this sort of hush-hush-wink-wink attitude towards information-flow isn't helping their case.

An old chinese proverb I once heard: "You don't bend down to tie your shoe-laces in your neighbour's melon-garden." Doubly true if you're a public servant.

Fariha said...

I'm posting NFC's rejoinder

Nazim Farhan Choudhury Says:
November 2nd, 2007 at 11:43 pm

Salma of comment 7:

Yes I understand that case is no longer just a tenancy one. Now given that the Islam’s have alleged physical abuse (unproven bar the cast during the Press conference) and we are claiming defamation I think there are multiple avenues that the case is now going down. I am sorry if you thought I was trying to mislead. My contention is one that should be possible to resolve through discussion and dialogue is being dragged through a proxy shouting match.

Yes Mrs Tarek did speak to the press. She is our official spokesperson and gave our side of the story. Most of the papers who did carry the piece including New Age, Shomokal and Naya Digonto gave our versions as well.

And here is where my own “reputation” defense enters. Some bloggers are editorialising the issue where a) we are already taken to be the guilty party (headlines like “New Godfather” etc or your example of the Khatib committing a crime) or our version of the story was not asked / reported (I must add this is not to be generalised as a few gave links to my contact details to bring us into dialogue.)

It seems everyone takes it for the truth that just because Mrs Choudhury is part of the CTG means that we are using force and political clout. On the contrary. We are quite aware that we are under the magnifying glass. Hence we have made sure we do not scurry undue favour. As witness to the “generator incident” will attest, that Police was present but did not interfere. When was the last time you can think of when Police stood by when a “minister” was abused?

Incidentally I do agree with you that just because of some person is accused to be a Yaba addict, their private life (and more horrifyingly that of anyone they are related to including siblings and sibling’s spouses) should not be public fodder. Nor should one be guilty just because one is related. (take for example that every-time Amin Huda is mentioned a suffix “nephew of Aziz Md. Bhai” is added)

I am sure that as a sub-editor you (Salma of comment 7) do not allow same to happen in your paper however that is not the popular action. So isn’t the argument that we need to have our affairs in spotlight just because most of the press in Bangladesh is spotlighting the Yaba case self defeating for privacy advocates?

Anonymous said...

Friday, October 26, 2007
Respect expatriates : We are not outsiders
According to the Newspapers report, Dr Mahbub-ul-Islam, a Professor at St Francis University in Pennsylvania, USA, alleged that the family members of the commerce and industries adviser beat him up on Tuesday when he tried to prevent the trespassing of nearly 200 people into his own building. Yes, he owns the building. And our fellow Bangladeshi Elite beats him.

My dear so-called elite society, please respect all expatriates and do not try to occupy anyone's building without any agreement. Gone are those days, when you consider expatriates only as exportable products and grasp all their hard-earn money.

When this caretaker Government has been formed, this writer alarmed about being trapped into a caretaker dynasty. Now it became clear that Cheif adviser is having trouble with the family members of his sister-in-law, commerce and industries adviser. Consider removing her from the post, if her family members fail to respect the rule of law and having trouble with the false pride of aristocracy.

Expatriates are the life-blood of Bangladesh economy. They already proved it. Remember, they are also becoming the kingmaker of Bangladesh politics. Respect them. They have power when they are united. Do not underestimate that hidden power! Expatriates are not outsiders!!

DhakaShohor said...

Mr. Mizanur,

I've seen your blog post before. I thank you for posting it on my blog.

However, I have severe disagreements with you.

"My dear so-called elite society, please respect all expatriates and do not try to occupy anyone's building without any agreement. Gone are those days, when you consider expatriates only as exportable products and grasp all their hard-earn money."

False dichotomy between expatriates and "elite society". Most of "elite society" are/have been expatriates. If you think that the building owners are not part of "elite society", then you have a very narrow idea of an "elite" in a country of 140 million where 45% live below the poverty line.

Secondly, you say: "Consider removing her from the post, if her family members fail to respect the rule of law and having trouble with the false pride of aristocracy."

Bad family members are NOT a reason for any public official to be removed from office. It has to be proven that they have used their powers inappropriately.

Look, I want the truth as well. But making over-reaching arguments and jumping to conclusions about the guilt of the so-called "aristocracy" without proof is not going to get us nearer the truth than anyone else.

Thank you again, and I apologise if I've hurt you personally through disagreeing with you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dhaka Shohor,

I did not in any way dishearten due to your disagreement with me.

In fact, I agree with most of your thoughts. I also do understand your points.

The total blackout of this news from the media, gave us an impression (right or wrong) that someone is behind this. However, like others including you, I just want justice. It might be so that the allegation by Dr Mahbub-ul-Islam is incorrect or vice-versa. But it must be proven through proper channel. I did not, in any way, intended to jump into conclusions about the guilt.

I just want that my dear Bangladesh become a place where no one will be denied from justice.

Thanks again for your correct thoughts.

DhakaShohor said...

Mizanur bhai,

Thanks for understanding my position.

I appreciated the spirit of your post a lot as well, even if I did not agree on the nitty-gritty details: expatriates are indeed one of our greatest assets. Very few other countries in the world are blessed with as patriotic an expatriate community as ours. Too bad they aren't always engaged by governments a lot more when it comes to making decisions inside Bangladesh.