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Al Jazeera’s ‘politically motivated smear campaign’ against PM, army not acceptable

Published : Wednesday, 3 February, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 2125
Observer Special

As an ethical and responsible media house, The Daily Observer has always welcomed the wider range of investigative journalism. However, the recent Aljazeera investigative documentary report titled "All the Prime Minister's Men", aired barely 48 hours ago has appeared as a shocking eye opener to politically motivated smear campaign. At the same time, the video documentary has also placed a number of questions on principled journalism under the spotlight which have obviously raised our concern and prompted our protest.

As far as purpose is concerned, Investigative journalism provides truth about people from government and other entities such as corporations those attempt to keep their often illegal activities secret. Its ultimate purpose is to expose such actions so that those involved can be held accountable      and bring to justice.

However, Aljazeera's latest controversial revelations on a gang of brothers - colluding with the country's army while having links to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina - merits a number of questions behind the actual intent  and motive of the said video documentary report.

First of all, it is about a family and more specifically about five brothers and their list of criminal activities spanning over decades.

The globally renowned free-to-air international Arabic channel has gone deep into investigating and analysing the crimes of the brothers by sending journalists from country to country, office to office and also by interviewing some targetted witnesses to industry experts. The journalists have unquestionably done a good job while investigating into the past and present of the accused. And the accused have ties with the party in power for nearly four decades.

The first point, however, naming the video documentary as "All the Prime Minister's Men" is clearly indicative of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's direct engagement with their crimes and corruption. We are not suggesting that the band of brothers hadn't committed crimes by abusing their political affiliation to Awami League, but except one for the army chief none of the others hold any form of office in the government.

Second, the title is surely identical of the famous American political drama film "All the President's Men", but that movie was based on a political scandal involving multiple parties whereas the Aljazeera report in details analysed the list of corruption of chiefly 4 men and their national and international accomplices. We consider it journalistically unfair and highly motivated to have branded these brothers as PM's henchmen.

Third, the timing of airing this video documentary, though informative and technically well made, triggers curiosity for a different reason.

Mark the timing in particular - it has been aired exactly when the army chief is on an official visit to the US. If this video documentary had been prepared with the intention to make him controversial and prevent the army chief's return to country then the ultimate objective is not above suspicion. Moreover, it is also explosive enough to foment agitation and ruckus within Bangladesh defence establishments.

What we would say, as far as criminality and corruptions are concerned in Bangladesh there are not only four AL affiliated individuals at home and abroad. In fact, there are organised syndicates within and outside the government, inside and outside of the country, and within and outside of Awami League as well.  Opposition parties like BNP, Jatiya Party, Jamaat and others are not immune of charges and allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

Selecting four notorious offenders in different capacities and also from the same family - in order to generate political tension inside a country - should never be the objective of investigative journalism. One may ask the real agenda of this report.

Most importantly, in the name of exposing an organised crime syndicate, Aljazeera had diverted the complete focus on launching a political smear campaign. 

Not that we are disapproving  of Aljazeera's innovative investigative attempts to unearth corruption in Bangladesh , but at the same time if the latest video documentary has been intended to bring about a political change or remove the army chief from power, it will have far-reaching repercussions. In short, there is a clear smell of a hidden agenda behind preparing and airing it at a sensitive time as now. Moreover, packed with anti-government propaganda elements, the video documentary is politically biased, not objective and factual. Above all it has a hidden agenda and motive.

The striking coincidence is that when the report was aired we have just witnessed an unexpected military coup taking place in our neighbouring Myanmar.  Surely we don't expect a similar occurrence being triggered by the latest video documentary.

It is also not surprising that the video report starkly aligns with the string of anti-Bangladesh party line habitually orchestrated by a few convicted absconding criminals, ex-army officers, politicians, media men and fugitives patronised by an extremist right wing, which on certain occasions have conspired with international extremist and fundamentalist groups. BNP and Jamaat coterie and their illegal fund has been active in such conspiracies and sinister moves so that Bangladesh can not progress with the spirit of the 1971 War of Liberation.

The video report designed with a number of flashbacks in history not in a single scene mentioned the horrific genocide of 1971 by Pakistan occupation army in Bangladesh. What's also interesting is that the globally renowned TV channel had selected some controversial and obsessed anti-Bangladesh commentators and media men to comment on critical issues.

In conclusion, Aljazeera must look into the key points we have mentioned and deliver a detailed explanation behind the actual intent behind "All the Prime Minister's Men". We are unable to accept the portrayal of an organised crime syndicate, where smearing the PM's  (whose image and performance are being lauded by world leaders and global media) local and global image had been the decisive goal.

In particular we are concerned at the failure and the lack of pre-emptive move to persuade and convince  Aljazeera to desist from airing such controversial, baseless and motivated report. We are now seeing flurry of statements from the Foreign Office and Information Ministry. Could'nt the concerned Ministries and government agencies take pre-emptive moves to stop such report rather than the present damage control reactions?

We strongly  condemn and protest the ALjazeera's sinister campaign against the Prime Minister and army with a hidden political agenda to destabilise and subvert the democratic reforms, sustainable economic growth and political stability now in Bangladesh under the elected government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

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