Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hasina, the ODI and human rights in Bangladesh

Is the reputable, and supposedly independent, Overseas Development Institute helping the Bangladesh government to enforce here in London the draconian restrictions that journalists experience in Bangladesh?

And is it, in light of how ODI dealt with a question from a Channel Four News journalist at the meeting itself, protecting the prime minister from having to respond to tough questions?

It certainly appears so.

ODI Vetting?
When I applied a week ago to attend the ODI event at which Sheikh Hasina, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, was due to speak. I got a very welcoming response. from Ben Tritton, the event organiser. "We'd be delighted to welcome you to ODI" he said. 

So I was rather astonished to receive an e-mail on Monday morning, the day before the talk, disinviting me from the event.
"Apologies but over the weekend we have received a large number of high level responses and this event is highly over-subscribed. We will therefore be unfortunately not able to welcome you to the event"
This seemed rather odd and I therefore immediately responded with this e-mail
"Could you please clarify whether you have allowed the Bangladesh delegation/government/representatives to vet the list of those who can attend the talk."
I received no response. 

On Tuesday, the morning of the talk, I called Mr Tritton and asked him why I had been disinvited. He kept me holding for about a minute and then repeated what he has written in his e-mail. I asked him how many people, like me, had been disinvited and he said 15 people

I then asked him the same question I had earlier e-mailed - about whether he allowed the Bangladesh government or representatives to vet the list of those who could attend the talk. If the ODI had not allowed vetting, one would have expected the answer to be a direct "No." Indeed one would have expected an independent think-tank to immediately respond in this way. However, he said:
"I am afraid I cant comment at all on that"
This is as close to a confirmation as you will ever get without the ODI saying "yes". If they hadn't allowed the Bangladesh government an ability to vet the invite list, the ODI would surely have just denied it.

In Bangladesh, media censorship has become increasingly restrictive. The government refuse to allow journalists from certain independent newspapers to attend government press conferences; the military intelligence agency has ordered large companies not to advertise in two major newspaper's reducing their advertising income by over one third; the prime minister has denounced a newspaper editor for publishing stories that were seeking to "destroy the country.” Government party activists have filed dozens of criminal cases against the same newspaper editor; dozens of journalists and editors have been arrested under the vague and arbitrary Information, Communication, Technology and Communication Act; and there is a high degree of censorship and - rather obviously - self-censorship. Televsion is particularly controlled.

The ODI must know about all this so why would it participate in apparently allowing the Bangladesh government to dictate who could and could not come to the meeting?

Channel Four News*
In addition, of course, and more significantly, the ODI did everything to prevent Channel Four News to ask a difficult question to Sheikh Hasina about human rights issues in Bangladesh. 

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Boris Johnson and British man secretly detained in Bangladesh

When late last year, the UK foreign minister Boris Johnson visited Iran, a country at the centre of various military conflicts and diplomatic controversies, the only issue that concerned the British media was his conversations with the Iranian government about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a british-Iranian woman convicted on trumped up charges of plotting to “topple the regime”.

The dual British-Iranian national, initially detained in April 2016 as she sought to return with her daughter back to london following a family holiday, is now languishing in a Tehran jail after she was sentenced for five years.

Boris Johnson arrived in Bangladesh on Friday, but it looks like that the release of a British-Bangladeshi man who was picked up by law enforcement authorities in July 2016, and has been secretly detained ever since, was not on his agenda.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tulip Siddiq, her mother and links to the Awami League

Tulip Siddiq in parliament
The failure of Tulip Siddiq, the West Hampstead and Kilburn labour Member of parliament, to help seek the release of those secretly detained and disappeared in Bangladesh, a country ruled by her family members, including her Aunt, the prime minister, has resulted in sharp criticism from her normally loyal local newspaper.

In a by-lined article in the December 2017 edition of the Ham and High, the editor states that a Channel Four News program, “raises questions as to exactly how deep her political involvement with her family really goes” and that the MP appears to have “misled” her and her readers in claiming that she has no political contact with her Aunt, the prime minister of Bangladesh.