Some Bangladeshi news media are reporting misleading, false or planted news, according to the freethought blogging platform Mukto-Mona (“Free mind”).
The misreported news relates to investigations into the murders of secular bloggers Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman and Ananta Bijoy Das, all killed this year in machete attacks.
Following stories earlier in the week (such as Dhaka Tribune’s “Bonya identifies blogger Avijit’s killers“), Mukto-Mona has issued a statement on behalf of Bonya Rafida Ahmed, the widow of Avijit Roy, herself seriously injured in the attack that took his life. (Mukto-Mona was founded by Avijit Roy, and Bonya Ahmed is a senior member of the moderating staff.)
In the statement, Mukto-Mona criticises “glib and misleading clickbait headlines” and refutes the substance of some stories. Despite media reports claiming to quote directly from Bonya, specifically in relation to supposedlly identifying assailants, Mukto-Mona counters:
“Since Bonya Ahmed returned to the USA for further medical treatment (after spending four days in the Square Hospital ICU after the attack), to date, neither the Bangladesh Police nor the FBI have sent her any photos for identification. She has not identified any person as the murderer(s) of Avijit Roy.
The US intelligence agency the FBI has remained in regular contact with Bonya Ahmed. We want to categorically state that the Government of Bangladesh, the state administration, the Bangladeshi embassies in the US–none of these organizations have contacted Bonya Ahmed directly or through the FBI. Following Bonya Ahmed’s interview with Reuters (bdnews link here), although Sajeeb Wazed Joy quickly got in touch with Reuters, no one on behalf of the government of Bangladesh felt it necessary to speak directly to Bonya Ahmed.
… We want the murderers of Avijit Roy to be arrested and punished to the fullest extent of the law. We want the murderers of Ananta Bijoy Das to be arrested and punished. We want the highest possible punishment through due process for the murderers of Rajib Haider, Washiqur Rahman Babu, and all other freethinkers. We do not want press conferences or news reports full of falsehoods.”
Even before Mukto-Mona’s intervention today, the spate of stories had raised eyebrows among the secular Bangla community:
- for the timing last week of a rash of reports linking al-Qaeda in the India Subcontinent (AQIS) arrests with Avijit Roy’s murder, news that was released on the same day as a high-profile lecture by Bonya Ahmed, in the UK (hosted by the British Humanist Association, BHA);
- for the involvement of RAB in making these arrests, the Rapid Action Battalion being notorious as the “government death squad” as well as for various and profound failures of accountability;
- for this week, while reporting on the supposed identification of “Ansarullah Bangla Team” suspects, a spate of stories that fail to make any mention of last week’s reported arrest of the AQIS militants for the very same crime;
- because Bonya has publicly stated, including in the BHA lecture, that she currently neither remembers the attack itself in any detail (making positive identification highly unlikely), and that she has had no official contact from police in Dhaka.
President of the IHEU, Andrew Copson, comments:
“Wherever it is ultimately coming from, this sort of media disinformation is deplorable in any circumstances, but when it muddies the waters of the most serious crimes it is particularly shameful. There have been widespread accusations of police ineptitude or apathy in relation to these murders. This media disinformation bears all the hallmarks of the authorities trying to obfuscate and provide a decoy to international human rights criticism. Such disinformation must be confronted, and withdrawn by those who propagate it.”
Notes: The IHEU has been working with several Bangladeshi secular writers in recent years, and in particular in the past few months following this year’s consecutive murders. We remain deeply concerned for a number of verified persons living under dire threat and we urge authorities in any country to treat their cases with utmost seriousness. Disclosure: The British Humanist Association is a member of the IHEU and the IHEU supported last week’s Voltaire Lecture with Bonya Ahmed.