190 eminent citizens castigate US envoy’s remarks on visa sanctions on media
The verbatim statement is given below:
We are deeply disappointed, at a recent statement issued by US Ambassador to Bangladesh Mr. Peter D Haas where the envoy announced that media persons would fall under the recently imposed visa sanction. Announcement of applying visa restriction on media clearly stands in stark contrast to a series of earlier statements pressed by Hass involving the status of freedom of press in Bangladesh, given media acts as the fourth pillar of a state. In our country, we found media taking up an instrumental role in creating awareness against radical forces, militants, war criminals and terrorist outfits like Jamaat-e-Islami, that consists of war criminals, seeks to eliminate progressive and secular forces including religious and ethnic minorities and establish a Taliban style rule in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, we have come across media reports on concerns raised by Sampadak Parishad in a letter to the ambassador where the editors raised questions “how will it be used in case of media” “what are the factors being considered?? The envoy in his reply refrained from offering any detail answer to these questions but defended his position to sanction media which left us in a state of shock. However, we have witnessed Hass’s statement on imposition of sanction on media has been glorified by radical outfits and anti liberation quarters that publicly decries western values, deems free thinkers as enemies of Islam and vouches for impunity for war criminals who committed genocide and crimes against humanity in 1971. Basherkella, a social media platform that acts as a mouthpiece for Jamaat-e-Islami, advocates for impunity of war criminals and reportedly stands exposed for running hate campaign against secular and liberal forces alongside minorities as well, already hailed the statement of Hass about inclusion of media persons and called him “a true friend of Bangladesh”, as we learnt from media reports. This very handle has also found vocal for justification of killing of bloggers and free thinkers in the past and even unleashed a barrage of vitriol against media persons as the country’s media remained vocal against communal forces. As Basherkella echoed the statement of Hass it sends a chilling message for every secular people. We also found the State Department officials refrained from mentioning media in the policy, but as Mr. Hass did not withdraw the statement it seems this move against media is almost finalised. Already decried by former editors and journalists, this move, if applied on media, would clearly bar media outlets to run critical reportage on a contradictory foreign policy pursued by Hass on Bangladesh. As we found earlier US’s projection of Jamaat disregarding the wanton evidence of war crimes committed by its leaders and grisly spell of ruthless attack carried out by cadres of the outfit on secular voices and minorities has also been hailed by platforms like Basherkella in the past. Another glaring case of Mr. Hass’s double standard position came up with his announcement for visa restriction on media given he had been vocal for press freedom right from his arrival to Bangladesh as this move would seriously undermine the basic tenets of media freedom. On the other hand, while announcement of State Department officials revealed “those act to stop media from reporting independently would face visa restriction”, but this latest statement by Ambassador Hass clearly designed at preventing media from carrying out journalism, which is why the very concept of imposition of sanction on Bangladesh failed to justify the stated rationale about US commitment for ensuring fair polls. Moreover, we have seen a series of efforts orchestrated on US soil that held the potential to jeopardize the communal harmony of the country. An earlier statement by six US congressmen that claimed minorities were halved during the tenure of the current government while involvement of controversial US senator Bob Menendez in raising the demand for sanction against RAB by US government also lead us to ponder that the words behind sanction did not justify with reality on ground. Without the help of law enforcers it is impossible to fight the menace of terrorism and militancy that we have witnessed raised ugly head in the past when attacks like Holy Artisan restaurant occurred while a series of communal attacks unfolded on minorities between 2013 and 2015 by Jammat and radical forces. During the last tenure of BNP-Jamaat alliance at least 28000 incidents of attacks on minorities including burning down of houses and worship places, looting valuables and burning alive were reported but no exemplary action has been taken by the very regime. But after the current government was voted to power, such state sponsored pogrom against minorities has been stopped and to maintain communal harmony the role of law enforcers is essential. Also we found US’s commitment to upholding justice did not match as the country is continuously sheltering convicted and self confessed killer of founding father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a grisly assassination that caused the rise of fundamentalist forces in the country. So we think it is logical to raise the question over how the visa policy would be applied who are deciding to employ the sanction and the validity of such move as we have seen the Ambassador’s activities and other said acts have come as a shot in the arms for radical forces that only seek to destabilise the country.