December 10 may turn into a day of bad news for Bangladesh


As Bangladesh is heading towards its next general election, which is scheduled to take place on January 7, 2024, political opponents of the ruling Awami League (AL), particularly ultra-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) and pro-Caliphate parties in the country on one hand are continuing countrywide blockades and general strikes and on another is spending millions of dollars towards lobbyists and media outlets in the Western nations with the target of influencing policymakers against Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the ruling AL.

Since 2009, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has succeeded in turning an economically-struggled Bangladesh into an economic star and she also has attained international appreciation for empowerment of women, girl’s education, public health and above all fighting terrorism. When the Prime Minister has been working tirelessly for the betterment of the people of Bangladesh, her party and government has miserably failed in making a formidable presence in the international media and even countering adverse propaganda. Sheikh Hasina knows, in today’s world, only one-on-one or state-to-state diplomatic efforts are not seen as either effective or sufficient unless such efforts are backed by strong media coverage. For this particular reason, she has been repeatedly emphasizing on effectively countering adverse propaganda in the international media and properly project Bangladesh’s tremendous achievements during the last fifteen years. But it seemed, her calls fell on deaf ears or there had been a genuine absence of proper people in the government who would realize the importance of Sheikh Hasina’s repeated reminders. As we know – by putting cobblers as aircraft pilots, there is a sure risk of catastrophe, unfortunately Sheikh Hasina is surrounded by a band of uncouth elements who fail to understand the global realities and importance of media in today’s world.

According to media reports, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is spending hundreds of millions of dollars towards the media for winning the next election. In India, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party since it came to power in 2019 has also been emphasizing in establishing its dominance in the media. Even in the United States, the Biden administration is not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring – media outlets in the country are not hijacked by its political opponents or do not run adverse campaigns against Joe Biden in particular, the ruling Democratic Party and even members of Biden’s family – including Hunter Biden.

Even countries in the Middle East, which were once considered ignorant of media’s importance are increasingly putting focus on it, where Qatar, for example is spending billions of dollars towards media every year. Similarly, Iran also is spending hugely in buying media’s influence.

Meanwhile, when TIME magazine published a cover-story stating “Bangladesh has taken an authoritarian turn under Hasina’s Awami League party” or The Economist said “Sheikh Hasina is Asia’s iron lady: Her tragic past now threatens Bangladesh’s future” – the state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) and pro-AL media outlets in Bangladesh were celebrating such publications surprisingly without going into details or even failing to understand the messages. Instead, to prove their “efficacy” some “cobblers” within the inner-circle of the Prime Minister considering themselves as “pundits” published hundreds of articles in local and foreign news outlets including some obscure websites using pseudonyms, which were later exposed by AFP resulting in removal of those contents from the respective outlets. This was though a great embarrassment to the ruling Awami League, one may not expect anything better from those bunch of uncouth and “cobbler” considered as pundits by the key-policymakers within the ruling party.

As consequence of ongoing massive media assaults targeting ruling AL party in Bangladesh and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and mostly biased statements issued by right groups, there are disturbing news surfacing in the media, such as global watchdog CIVICUS, in its annual report on the state of civil rights, marking Bangladesh’s civic space “closed” for the first time, or American buyers of apparel products from Bangladesh incorporating newer clause stating – it will not “process transactions involving any country, region, party” sanctioned by the UN, US, EU or the UK.

Meanwhile, political opponents of ruling Awami League are in jubilant mood as there is sharp speculation of extended sanctions by the US administration targeting several individuals and members of law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh on December 10. This speculation was further sharpened when US State Department on December 5, 2023 imposed visa restrictions on Israeli nationals stating, whereas Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The United States has consistently opposed actions that undermine stability in the West Bank, including attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and Palestinian attacks against Israelis. We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank…

“… the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities.  Immediate family members of such persons also may be subject to these restrictions”.

In my opinion, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s December 5 decision of imposing visa restrictions on Israeli individuals, that may include members of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) goes against America’s commitment of combating Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza Strip. This announcement actually shall further encourage Hamas in committing heinous crimes on Israelis. A similar odd action was taken by the Biden administration targeting Bangladesh’s anti-terror elite force – Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on December 10, 2021. As Biden administration is visibly biased towards ultra-Islamist forces in Bangladesh and even attempting in helping these elements return to power and turn the country into sanctuary for extremist ideologies, it is highly-anticipated that on December 10 this year, Washington may come up with newer punitive measures on Bangladesh, which would ultimately push the country towards further chaos and uncertainty.


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