Ethical journalism and the culture of VVIP immunity

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Bharatiya Janata Party, BNP, Al Qaeda, Indian

In the world of journalism, integrity and transparency stand as the pillars of ethical reporting. However, a recent incident reported by vernacular tabloid Daily Manabzamin in Bangladesh brings to light the shadows that loom when these principles are compromised. According to Manabzamin report, on the evening of May 7, 2024 chaos erupted in Gulshan area in Dhaka city, near the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and few other diplomatic missions leaving behind a trail of unanswered questions and a glaring spotlight on the abuse of VVIP privilege. This vernacular daily’s report was based on social media post by a notorious anti-Bangladesh cyberterrorist who has been peddling disinformation for a couple of years. It may be also mentioned here that, Manabzamin has also been granting space to few other anti-Awami League elements, including BNP member and so-called journalist Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, who in the recent weeks has also been using his presence at the US State Department and the United Nations targeting India, ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Ansarey succeeded in obtaining press accreditation cards from White House, State Department and the UN through false claim of being “US Correspondent” of Just News despite the fact, this news portal is based in Washington DC with office at 1015 15th St NW, Suite 600, Washington DC, 20005. Back in December 2001, when a team of Al Qaeda, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri visited Bangladesh being hosted by ultra-Islamist Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Ansarey was assigned by BNP’s leader and a convicted terrorist Tarique Rahman as the coordinator.

In the report centering the incident, Manabzamin provided “eyewitnesses” and corroborated by “multiple sources”, involved a collision between a private car and a cyclist. What ensued was not just a mere traffic altercation but a display of aggression and entitlement. Despite the clarity of the events that transpired, the newspaper’s failure to disclose the identities involved raises concerns about the integrity of this reportage, particularly when it is based on the “information” provided by an anti-Bangladesh cyberterrorist on social media. Concealing crucial details not only undermines the credibility of the news but also deprives the readers of their right to transparency. At the same time, Manabzamin report may generate doubts in the minds of people thinking, it too has published a baseless report with the ulterior motive of maligning the image of a “VVIP” family.

Central to the Manabzamin narrative is the role of law enforcement, represented by Constable Morsalin, whose attempt to diffuse the situation was met with violence. The assailant, identified as the “grandson of a VVIP”, not only assaulted Constable Morsalin but also reportedly attempted to evade accountability with the aid of his influential position. If the information provided in the Manabzamin report is true, then people may ask question about blatant misuse of power that highlights the pervasive VVIP culture that plagues society, where individuals believe themselves above the law.

Equally alarming is the response, or lack thereof, from the authorities. Despite the confirmation of the incident by eyewitnesses and anonymous police officers, the official stance remains one of denial and silence. The failure of Gulshan Police Station to acknowledge the incident underscores the complicity that enables such misconduct to persist unchecked.

Moreover, the aftermath of the altercation paints a grim picture of disturbing impunity. The assailant, whisked away in vehicles following the intervention of members of Gulshan Police Station, faces no repercussions for his actions. Meanwhile, Constable Morsalin, the alleged victim of the assault, is left incapacitated and sidelined from duty, a casualty of the system’s inability to protect those who uphold the law.

Beyond the immediate repercussions, this incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for transparency and accountability in governance. Influential figures in the ruling Awami League party of Bangladesh must not turn a blind eye to such flagrant abuses of power within its ranks. Silence in the face of injustice condones it, perpetuating a culture of impunity that erodes the foundations of democracy and equality.

Furthermore, the incident underscores a troubling trend of media sycophancy towards powerful elites, where the pursuit of truth takes a backseat to preserving favorable relationships with those in positions of authority. The reluctance to hold the powerful accountable not only compromises journalistic integrity but also perpetuates a culture of impunity that emboldens further transgressions. When the media becomes complicit in shielding the privileged from scrutiny, it not only betrays the public trust but also contributes to the erosion of democratic values.

This reluctance to uphold the rule of law sets a dangerous precedent that may sow the seeds of political catastrophe in the future. By allowing VVIPs to operate above the law, society risks undermining the very foundations of justice, equality and even democracy. In a democracy, no individual or entity should be immune to accountability, regardless of their stature or connections. Failure to address such systemic issues not only fosters resentment and disillusionment among the populace but also breeds a culture of lawlessness that threatens the fabric of society. Without a firm commitment to upholding the rule of law, the seeds of discord and instability are sown, paving the way for potential political upheaval in the days to come.

If Manabzamin report and narration in its were false and baseless, appropriate measures should have been taken against this vernacular tabloid for running or repeating propaganda. In the past, this newspaper has published number of “reports” based on propaganda circulated on social media. Lately, the “report” in Manabzamin about Israeli aircrafts landing at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and downloading “unknown cargoes” was later dismissed by the authorities concerned. But no legal steps were taken against this vernacular tabloid for reason unknown. Does it mean – Manabzamin also enjoys immunity and should not follow ethics of journalism while running a mere gossip or rumor?

The events that unfolded on May 7 shed light on the intersection of ethical journalism, abuse of privilege, and institutional accountability. A newspaper’s duty extends beyond the dissemination of information; it is a guardian of truth and transparency. Likewise, those entrusted with power must wield it responsibly, with the utmost respect for the rule of law and the rights of every citizen. Only through collective condemnation and concerted action can we dismantle the structures that enable VVIP culture to thrive, ensuring a society where justice prevails for all, regardless of status or affiliation.

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