August 24, 2007

Bangladesh under curfew: Day 2

Bangladesh Open source intelligence monitor reports:
* The violence and attacks on security forces have subsided and a relative calm is prevailing all over the country.

* The curfew has been relaxed from 8 a.m to 10 p.m for people to go shopping and offer their Friday prayers.

* The Army is still out patrolling the streets of Dhaka and there seems no immediate plan for them to return to the barracks.

* Media censorship is in force and some private TV channels have been asked to exercise restraint (in reporting news).

(Curfew was relaxed today morning. But heavy downpour kept people inside. Photo: Shafiur)

Subhan reports from Dhaka:
- City dwellers suffered on 23 August as the prices of essential commodities, especially vegetables, marked a sharp rise because of short supply. Prices of many vegetables went up by about 50 per cent in some kitchen markets on the day.

- Law enforcement agencies raided DU dormitories on 22 August night and early 23 August, allegedly beating up some university staff and students on suspicion of 'disturbing peace'.

- An unknown number of students were injured at Jahangirnagar University as law enforcement agencies baton charged Jahangirnagar University (JU) students who failed to leave their dormitories within the deadline.

- Over 50 persons were injured in Rajshahi yesterday as law enforcers baton charged people who were out of their homes during the curfew.
Earlier on Thursday: BD News24 reports that Joint forces Thursday picked up two Dhaka University teachers from the teachers' quarters on Fuller Road quoting family sources.
One is Anwar Hossain, professor of biochemistry, younger brother of Nov 7, 1975 leader Col Abu Taher. He is a former JSD leader and now a prominent leader of the pro-Awami League teachers' grouping.

The other is Harun-or-Rashid, dean of social sciences. reports:
Law enforcers arrested former Rajshahi University (RU) vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Saidur Rahman Khan and Progressive Teachers’ Society Convener Prof Abdus Sobhan at their residences on the university premises early today (24 August 3AM Bangladesh time). Both of them are professors of applied physics department at the university.
Freedom House published a press release. Some excerpts:
Protests in Bangladesh are symptomatic of rising popular dissatisfaction with the military-backed interim government and the public’s concerns should be addressed rather than stifled.

We hope Bangladesh’s current leaders will avoid the lengthy protests Pakistan has been experiencing this year by swiftly setting a schedule for elections and allowing the resumption of basic civil liberties.
The Committee to protect journalists published a news alert. Some excerpts:
The Committee to Protect Journalists is dismayed by reports of the assault, detention, and harassment of local journalists by security forces.

CPJ is also concerned about widespread self-censorship among local broadcast media following yesterday’s remarks by Mainul Hosein, adviser for law and information for the interim government, reminding journalists that emergency regulations were in force and urging the media to “play a responsible role.” He denied that the government was imposing direct censorship but reminded journalists that it was empowered to do so under the emergency provisions. In a pointed appeal to broadcasters, Hosein said, according to the BBC, “We request channels to stop televising footage of violence until further notice because this might instigate further violence.”

Private television channels in Bangladesh abruptly stopped carrying reports about the street demonstrations, suspending even the popular political discussion programs about the day’s news.
CPJ asserts:
Journalists must be free to report independently on the unfolding political crisis, without interference from security forces and without fear of retribution from the government.
In the Middle of Nowhere lists some realities and asks "How can I not protest?"

Some international media reactions:

* Curfew in Bangladesh continues - The Hindu

* Bangladesh Forces Patrol Amid Curfew - Guardian Unlimited

* High stakes in Bangladesh protests - BBC

* Campus Power - The Telegraph India

* Desperate measures: The army-backed regime unravels; but there is nothing to replace it - Economist

Update I: Another source of updated news is the Bangla bloggers turned citizen journalists. There are a lot of them in the Bangla Blogging platforms Somewhere In "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj" and Sachalayatan.

Mira reports (Bangla):
Some Journalists of the popular Bangla daily "Prothom Alo" protested self censorship. They refrained themselves from work saying "We can no longer get beaten and be a collaborator at the same time". The newspaper published today with fewer contents than usual.
Rizvi Rahman posts series of curfew narratives.

AnyaRakam witnesses Police excess even when curfew was relaxed. He comments "It seems we are in Pakistan or Afghanistan".

Renowned poet Lutfor Rahman Riton's one poem was processed to be published in the Daily Janakantha's 23 August edition. But it was withdrawn at the last moment apparently due to self censorship. He has posted that in his Blog in Sachalayatan. It is high time journalists and writer should harness the power of the blogs as a medium for freedom of expression. The poem is here. Translation of the first verse:
To enter in a cantonment
Civilian's ID is questioned
To enter in a civilian zone
Army require any permission?
Journalist cum Blogger Biplob Rahman writes in his blog about the ordeal of his detention, events in jail and his release.

Update II: The most popular Bangla Blogging Platform Somewhere in launches a service for posting in blogs via sms using mobile phones. Those who want to share your breaking news, opinion or information to the world just go to message menu in your mobile and send the text shout(space)@bba(space)your message to 5455. The message will be shown as anonymous post. If you want to show your name then you have to register yourself. Registration is easy; just type "reg [nick] [gender] [area]" and send to 5455. Hope it will encourage more citizen journalists to use the new media tools in this situation.

However, a commenter in Drishtipat reports that all mobile networks have been shut down again.

Update III: Internationally acclaimed journalist Shahidul Alam posts an essay on the curfew called "the barren banana tree" accompanied with brilliant photographs. Some excerpts:
Rahnuma and I talked of the events over the last two days, of the army camp in Dhaka University. Of a soldier slapping a student. Of the vice chancellor (acting) being beaten up by police. This had never happened before, not even during the Ayub or Ershad military regimes.

Despite their claims, this government had never been called in by the people. We had no say in who the advisers would be. It was not military rule the people had welcomed, but the cessation of violence and the fear of further anarchy if the rigged elections were held. Banana trees would have made equally good replacements. However, banana trees would not have sold national interests. Closed down environmentally-friendly jute mills. Made slum dwellers homeless, or tortured and killed adibashis protesting the military acquisition of their ancestral lands. So while there was initial relief, as the price of essentials soared, news of nepotism and the partisan manner in which Jamaat -e-Islami was being shielded soon made people realise this banana tree would never bear fruit, let alone run a government.

As Bangladeshis realise that a democratically elected autocratic government has simply been replaced by an unelected autocratic one, the tune in the streets is changing.

Multiple demands of students and teachers have been whittled down to one - withdraw emergency rule. Underground pamphlets are spreading like wildfire. With the Internet down, text messages are filling up the ether. The information adviser’s suave statements to the media faltered as he snapped, “why such a fuss about a slap or two?”

The US has declared support for the chief adviser’s statement. What he lacks is the support of the people.
Such strong and true words.


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