WhatFinger

Associated Press (AP), Parveen Ahmed

Repression of press and paid agents in Bangladesh


By Sunita Paul—— Bio and Archives--May 6, 2008

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In my entire journalistic career, possibly I never saw a section of paid journalists opposing publication of reports and articles on the ongoing repression of journalists in a country. But, it happened in Bangladesh! And such nasty attempts at opposing this topic come from a journalist working with the Associated Press (AP).  The other comes from a journalist   belonging to a minor English language daily newspaper, which is owned by an ousted and extremely controversial advisor of the military emergency government.

Let me first briefly explain what caused this unexpected reaction from a fired reporter of AFP (French News Agency),  who now works with Associated Press in Dhaka as well as the situation to date with another unknown reporter from a minor newspaper named The New Nation, owned by controversial advisor to the military emergency government—Barrister Moinul Hussain.
 
In my article titled ‘Press under attack in Bangladesh’, I brought the cases of a few esteemed journalists like Ms. Sumi Khan, Mr. Zahid Al Amin (now working with Daily Amader Shomoy), Mr. Motiur Rahman Chowdhury (editor of Dhaka’s large vernacular daily Manabzamin) and internationally known,  award-winning anti-jihadist journalist Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. Both Ms. Khan and Mr. Amin were targeted by Islamist groups for their courageous investigative reports on terror and corruption by Jamaat-e-Islami thugs. The two young reporters were physically assaulted and Zahid Al Amin,  in particular continues to work in one of the most respected and largest vernacular daily Amader Shomoy ignoring the potential threat on his life. According to records, Amader Shomoy has been at the forefront defending repressed journalists for years. Its editor Nayeemul Islam Khan has never compromised reporters raising their voices in favor of any of the tortured or repressed journalists, which places him in a much esteemed position in Bangladeshi society. His newspaper, Amader Shomoy, is gradually moving towards touching the top position amongst all competing newspapers, despite numerous financial constraints. In Bangladesh, Nayeemul is known as a charismatic personality for his undeterred courage and commitment,  as well as for his own style in making a newspaper popular overnight. In the past, a number of leading vernacular dailies in Bangladesh were born under his leadership. In Dhaka’s mainstream press, many of Nayeem’s comrades are working with prominent contributions thus turning Bangladeshi press into one of the strongest institutions in South Asia.
 
In the same article, I mentioned the case of Mr. Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, a correspondent with Voice of America. In the past, Chowdhury worked with a large number of local newspapers, and each time displayed his extraordinary courage and zeal as well as professional charisma. His wife, Mahbuba Chowdhury is the lone female editor of any Bangladeshi daily newspaper to date.
 
A few years ago,  Matiur Rahman Chowdhury published the text of a telephone conversation between former military ruler Hussain Muhammed Ershad and a judge with the Bangladesh Supreme Court. The entire conversation was about Ershad’s requests to the judge in according special favors to him. Publication of the report in Manabzamin created virtual havoc in the country, which finally led the judiciary in taking the appropriate decision on the case. But, very unfortunately, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury was summoned by the judges in Bangladesh Supreme Court, on charge of contempt.  After a prolonged hearing that went on for days, the court awarded a three-month conviction to Matiur Rahman Chowdhury. Although Chowdhury made an appeal against such judgment and has yet to go to jail to serve the conviction.  Such punishment to an eminent and front-ranking editor in the country reminds every other member of the journalistic community that, they should even keep silent in many cases, although they sometimes have evidence of high profile corruption.
 
And, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury? According to The Wall Street Journal, a ‘gadfly journalist’ risking his life for confronting militant Islam as well as advocating interfaith understanding and demanding relations between Israel and Bangladesh faces sedition, treason and blasphemy charges in his own country. According to Bangladeshi law, sedition bears capital punishment. For years now,  Choudhury has been publishing an English language weekly newspaper known as Blitz, which has emerged into a most influential newspaper in Bangladesh with wide readership at home and abroad. Many people in the West, who may not be even familiar with Bangladesh or its society, are quite familiar with this newspaper for its extraordinary courageous stand against Islamists as well as its investigative journalism.
 
My article appeared in a number of international media on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. I was delighted to note that at least on this important day, stories of the agony of my fellow journalists in Bangladesh were being read by many in the world.
 
But, my joy soon turned into shock and later anger when a ‘reporter’ with the Associated Press (AP) in Dhaka, Parveen Ahmed started sending numerous emails to me putting a series of false and concocted allegations on Bangladeshi journalist Mr. Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. She started her remarks in response to my article, where I mentioned Blitz as the most influential newspaper. Although it is a proven fact that Blitz is in reality the most influential newspaper in Bangladesh having high credibility to international readers, Ms. Parveen wrote, “Who told you Blitz was “the most influential English language newspaper” in Bangladesh?

I have been working here as a reporter for 12 years, and have never seen a copy.

”It’s most likely an underground publication, financed by outside forces.

It certainly is never in the news stands. If you do ever get hold of a copy, do send it our way, please. And as far as I know, `Soheb’ Choudhury was arrested for violation of our passport laws. He was trying to travel to Israel on a Bangladeshi passport. Bangladesh doesn’t recognize Israel, and it is forbidden for Bangladeshi citizens to travel or have any contacts with Israel. If anyone does, it’s considered as “fraternizing with the enemy,” or sedition. He knew the law, but decided to flout it anyway. The most popular English language papers here are The Daily Star, New Age, The New Nation, The Independent.”
 
I could instantly sense that it was possible someone had planted Ms. Parveen in conducting such activities by using the cover of being a reporter with Associated Press. In her email, she denied to accept the fact that Blitz is the most influential newspaper. She even challenged that, Blitz copies were never seen by her. She even mentioned a few newspapers as most popular in Bangladesh. Yes, I agree, The Daily Star, The New Age and The Independent are amongst the popular dailies. But, what about The Bangladesh Observer, which is the oldest newspaper in the country? What about The News Today, Financial Express or Bangladesh Today? Why, I wondered, did Ms. Parveen mention The New Nation as one of the ‘most popular’ dailies while she ignored others like Bangladesh Observer, News Today, Financial Express or Bangladesh Today? Moreover, although she is a reporter for Associated Press, she possibly does not understand the difference between ‘most popular’ and ‘most influential’ terms. By using the term, ‘most popular’ she wishes to justify the circulation. In this case, yes, the Daily Star has a high circulation. But, what about The New Nation? Does it enjoy higher circulation than Bangladesh Observer, Bangladesh Today or Financial Express? In United States, USA Today is the largest newspaper if we talk about circulation. But, who would ignore the fact of Christian Science Monitor’s influence above all? Or what about Reader’s Digest? She must look into the meaning of two different terms ‘most influential’ and ‘most popular’. I am sure, she will already get her reply.
 
Here, the most significant point is, Parveen terms Weekly Blitz as a ‘outlawed newspaper’ ‘financed by outside forces’. And, she raised all such allegations right on the official email of Associated Press. In this case, may anyone assume that, this is a personal or corporate propaganda against a courageous Bangladeshi journalist like Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and his newspaper? Does Associated Press employ someone to get involved in hurting the image of other journalists and newspapers? My personal records confirm that, Weekly Blitz is not any outlawed newspaper as claimed by AP’s Parveen. I have crossedchecked the fact with Bangladeshi authorities too. And, the allegation of being funded by outside forces is a notorious joke. Possibly AP’s big bosses in the United States will give response to my points as to why it is attempting to tarnish the image of an anti-Islamist journalist? What is the mystery behind this deed?
 
There is unfortunately a second episode of this nasty game. Parveen is not alone in the conspiracy. Some other anti-American and anti-Semitic people are also aligned with her. Here is the evidence. I received another email from one Syful Islam claiming to be a reporter with New Nation. In his email, Syful Islam wrote, “If you want to claim yourself as a responsible journalist and not an agent of the US/Israel government (as you mentioned to check to accommodate us),  please stop such
propaganda against Bangladesh also any individual (please do not use any abusive word like ‘nasty’). Everybody knows how to use slang, but I never like to do so to a woman.”
 
Commenting on my report on Sumi Khan, Zahid Al Amin, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury and Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, Syful wrote, “Yes I said the information you used was very old, and you based your story on this report with an intention to defame Bangladesh and the government. Please ‘oil your own machine’. May I assign you to make an in depth report on what the Indian and US Government is doing to repress newsmen?”
 
This is a unique allegation from the New Nation saying that the Indian and US governments are repressing reporters. He failed to bring one example. This is quite natural. Because dubious Barrister Moinul Hussain’s newspaper the New Nation has an anti-US and anti-Indian agenda, thus supporting Al Qaida and other Islamist terrorists.
 
Syful further wrote, “May I ask you to report on Israel’s continuous attack on Palestine? May I ask you who assigned you to defend some Bangladeshi journalists? What you have done to defend journalists in India or your masters the US and Israel? Please check their state how they are passing their time.”
 
Here again, he brings false allegation against United States, Israel and India. He terms US and India as my ‘masters’. In my journalistic career of four decades I never had any such masters. Possibly Syful learnt this term from his boss Barrister Moinul who has many masters at home and abroad.
 
He further wrote, “Please do something for the betterment of humankind (as a ‘journalist’ you have some responsibility) instead of trying to be an agent of (the) US and its collaborators in (the) Middle East. You know Israel is trying to occupy Palestine with the help of its master US. You better know what (the) US done with Iraq and what it is doing with Iran and Syria.”
 
Commenting on Shoaib Choudhury, Syful wrote, “Unfortunately you are not aware of many things who Salauddin `Shoeb’  Chowdhury is. For your information, Shoeb Chowdhury, a former employee of Itar Tass News agency of (the) former Soviet Union, joined the Daily Inqilab, a local vernacular newspaper, which is known as the patron of Islamic fundamentalists and militants in Bangladesh. Chowdhury worked there several years. He also wrote a lot of articles in The New Nation and the Daily Inqilab praising the Talebans and Islamic militants. He also wrote many articles against Americans and also Jews.”
 
He wrote, “Interestingly, one day we saw a news item in the daily Inqilab that Chowdhury was suspended from job (for misappropriating funds for establishing a TV channel by the Inqilab authorities). Losing job in the Inqilab he suddenly became desperate and was trying to get blessings from somewhere else which would make him solvent financially.”
 
What a lie! Syful Islam claims that he saw news in Inqilab stating that Shoaib was fired for financial misappropriation. But, in reality, after looking back into many records and references, I discovered that on March 6, 2003 the Daily Inqilab published a front page news item on his resigning from its television channel project. There is nothing about financial misappropriation in that report. Syful and other propagandists can check this fact. Here again the question may arise. Where did the ‘misappropriation’ theory came? If we will check back the report, it will be seen that someone in AP made such a story. And, at least by now we know with certainty who was behind such false allegations.
 
Syful also wrote, “Yes, it is true that he has the capability of writing. Using this skill he wrote an article in favour of Jews, which was quite surprising and did not match his past records and political ideology, because he had already proved himself as a patron of Islamic forces.

Anyone can find this truth if he/she feels the necessity to investigate about it coming to Bangladesh.”
 
Here is the most interesting part of the conspiracy. Now, Syful wants to paint Shoaib as an Islamist while Bangladeshi government terms him as a Zionist Spy [the sedition, treason and blasphemy case is also continuing against him]. As Syful asked me to visit Bangladesh to know who Shoaib Choudhury is, shall I knock the doors of conspirators like Syful Islam or his god-father Moinul Hussain? Or, AP’s Parveen? Most interestingly, Syful sent a copy of his mail to Parveen and both correspondences are in similar pattern. I know with certainty, these were prepared from the same desk. And, of course, from ant-American, anti-Indian and anti-Semitic people.
 
By sending mail against Shoaib Choudhury from Associate Press, Parveen has definitely damaged the neutrality and credibility of this prestigious news agency. On the other hand, Moinul’s man Syful showed to us all that, his newspaper New Nation is having extremely anti-American, anti-India and anti-Semitic notions. Do Bangladeshi authorities endorse such stands, or they have hired both Parveen and Syful (or perhaps Moinul) in continuing the nasty blame game against repressed Bangladeshi journalists?


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