March 20, 2008

The Irony of Being Naya Diganta

As Jyoti bhai pointed out, Naya Diganta was one of the few papers to carry the news about the torture report issued by HRW. I have already discussed certain aspects of the interrogations transcripts. Yet another that obviously caught my attention was the almost exclusive focus on India throughout. I don’t know if this was a solely a scare-tactic or whether the intelligence agencies really believe that one, and ONLY one country out there mean us any harm and everyone else is a সাধু. I sincerely hope it’s the former.

But even if it was a scare tactic, what enables this sort of tactic in the first place? A disproportionately large fear of India within our populace, stroked by the communally-charged elders, certain political forces, a parochial and outdated foreign policy (if one can call it that) community, and the media. Naya Diganta, while focusing on certain very worthwhile India-related stories, does run others that make it seem like a card-carrying member of this sort of baseless India-bashing group. Which ironically enables the very torture on suspicion that it has run a story about! Are these guys so dumb that they don’t see the irony?

At the risk of repetition: there is nothing wrong with a focus on India. My beef is with an exclusive, wrong-headed focus, not cool-headed analysis. I have previously described the latter attitude as that of a foreign-policy hawk, and the former as that of dodos. It seems that in Bangladeshi foreign policy circles, we have don’t have hawks and doves, but instead are blessed with do-nothings or dodos.

I’m not quite sure where to put Naya Diganta in that category. When I see ND reporting on how the civil aviation delegation might have sold us out during negotiations in Delhi - the civil aviation secretary was made OSD on return - my heart warms up. (New Age had a similar report). That is an instance of keeping people informed about the relevant points and people, thus adopting a tough stance vis a vis India.

However, a few days previously, I had seen this absolutely incredible report on how apparently there was a vast আন্তরজাতিক চক্র (International Conspiracy with a capital I and C) led by none other than that Ancient and All-Powerful Secret Cabal, the Indian Thread Makers! This Secret Cabal is apparently in control of some NGO in UK which has managed to convince major retailers like Marks and Spencer’s not to buy from Bangladeshi suppliers if they use Uzbeki cotton. Of course, I am tempted to ask why the Indian government is so stupid as to let a bunch of thread-makers disturb their diplomatic ties with a country that is increasingly becoming a major regional supplier of gas even as India is becoming ever more energy-hungry, but such questions are more likely to fall on deaf ears. Worse, they can get me in trouble with the (lack of) intelligence services for harbouring “pro-Indian” sentiments!

I understand that ND does not like the current government. Nor do they like India or Daily Star journalists who talk openly about Jamaat’s connections to religiously-inspired violence in Bangladesh. (It is said that ND is backed by Jamaat-leaning individuals; I’m also told that it gives space in its monthly magazine to some staunch left-leaning “secularists”, and not just Farhad Mazhar!). So the irony of these two reports within the span of a week is simply laughable. Or is it simply the cynicism of using a more helpless adversary like a tortured journalist to get a bigger fish, like the current government?

Lastly, at the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum, let me say once more: if crying “wolf” becomes the national pastime, you will have a desensitized, disbelieving population that really doesn’t care about TRUE stories of being pushed around by its bigger neighbor to the east. And if that happens, there is clearly only one winner: India.

Tip to Naya Diganta: stick to facts. Leave the conspiracy theories for the fools who fall for them.


Anonymous said...

Jamaat has its presidium completely untouched. The Chairperson of BNP, The President & The GS of AL, all are held inside jail. But nothing touches Jamaat. So we can assume there is nothing wrong between Jamaat & this regime.

Now, a Jamaat backed newspaper (as told in this post), Naya Diganata now finds fault in every step of this regime, no matter they be reasonable or not. Whereas Jamaat is looking like 'no enemy' of this regime, why their backed media will take position against this regime?

This is not a challenge. I just want it to be explained. Don't take this question as a progress to a debate.

Thank you.

Rumi said...

Good point Shatil. And good post DS.

I feel this is a calculated move by Naya Diganta. Jamaat has Sangram as political mouth piece. Now it needs to win a circulation battle with Prothom Alo et el. Sangram is not the tool to do that.

To win a circulation war with prothom Alo, you gotta be like prothom ALo. What you need to be like prothom alo?
1. Get some good incisive columnist
2. Take an antiestablishmnet role ( PA played this role during last two governments)
3. Improve the sports section.
4. Start making round table policy discussions.

At this time while the mainstream popular print media remains stubbornly pro government, an anti establishment strategy is the way to win circulation.

Additionally anti India rant will help collect some additional reader.

[ Naya Diganta owner Mir Kasem Ali is one of the few jamaat majlish e Shura member who have been indicted by ACC. There is grievences in this sector too]

Jyoti said...

A counter to Prothom Alo has been long overdue. Shafiq Rehman tried to do it while BNP was in power. It didn't work because anti-establishment stories sell better. What would you rather read: investigative scoops about the government's abuse of power, or long pieces on how great the leader is?

Too bad this had to be Jamaat-linked Naya Diganta - much more than the alleged corruptions and very real abuses of power, this intellectual emptiness is BNP's worst problem. Thanks to the regime's actions, Tarek Rahman may well come out of this as a 'hero'. But without any ideas of his own, his 2nd innings will be a repeat of the first.

Interestingly, while ND remains unmistakably linked with political Islam and carries an unabashed Muslim nationalist badge, it's not clear that it is all that 'right wing' in other respects. Its rhetoric on foreign policy and economy is not all that different from left relics like Badruddin Umar (one of its premier columnist, Mr Mazhar, is left). And on hot button issues like recognising the historical role of Mujib, it is significantly more liberal than most BNP leaders have been.

Also, ND is not the only paper gunning for PA's place as the main Bangla daily. Shamokal caters to the same audience that read PA but find the latter's support of the current regime distasteful. Now, Shamokal's editorial line is very much supportive of AL, except its owner was reputed to be a Hawa Bhaban favourite.

And then there is New Age, unquestionably the most consistently vocal opponent of the coup. In recent months, its rhetoric on political Islam and war crimes issue has shifted to the so called 'shadhinotar pokkho' whereas its founder Enayetullah Khan's line was much closer to the 'jatiyatabadi' one.

What does all this mean? I guess these are the indications of major ideological reallignments that our politics is going through.

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