By a skillful and sustained use of propaganda one can make a people to see heaven as hell, or an extremely wretched life as paradise. –Adolf Hitler.
We read Subir Bhaumik, Salahuddin Shoaib Chowdhury, ANM Abdi and a few other RAW (Indian Intelligence Agency) affiliated writers singing for Sheikh Hasina and Indian interests in Bangladesh. Now we know they sat on the tip of an iceberg. The French AFP, in a story on August 7, 2023, discovered more than 700 articles parroting the Bangladesh ruling regime’s ‘success stories.’
“Hundreds of articles praising Bangladeshi government policies apparently by independent experts have appeared in national and international media but the authors have questionable credentials, fake photos, and may not even exist,” said the AFP. The objective of the calculated propaganda was clear: ‘No alternative to Sheikh Hasina’ in the crucial national election the country is facing in January next.
( Please see the story @ Fake experts praising Bangladesh gov’t in media before elections: AFP probe | Media News | Al Jazeera )
Reminded of the regime’s past electoral farces, both at national and local levels, the US led democratic West has been hammering on the Bangladesh government for a free, fair and participatory election, leading to a democratic governance. On the other hand, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led opposition has been campaigning for the polls under a non-partisan, neutral Caretaker Government (CTG). It also threatened not to go to the polls under the Hasina administration, which proved time and again to be incapable of holding a fair election. Fearing that a neutral and fair arrangement will oust her outright, Hasina seems determined to manage the election–in effect, replaying the past fraudulent electoral games–citing the constitutional provision, a provision she created herself with a view to perpetuating in authority. The country and the world saw what happened in 2014 and 2018, when the ruling party “won” an unbelievable victory of almost 100%. Nearly six thousand local level elections also saw the same results. So, it the campaign to make “an extremely wretched life as paradise.”
The sponsored articles would have not caught the attention had they not turned out to contain questionable contents with apparent made-to-order narratives. But however costly and fragrant perfume one may sprinkle on a skunk, it will smell bad. So is the Hasina administration; its 15-year track record is a tell-all, absolutely stinking. It cannot escape its stigma of a number of massacres–the BDR, the Jamaat-e-Islam, the Hefazat, to name only three–banishing democracy, committing serious human rights crimes, heightened election frauds, total absence of political freedom, destruction of the political opposition, rampant corruption, and above all, selling national interests to her sponsor in exchange for staying in power. The US sanctions, the Visa Restrictions, the continuing global calls for a credible election and improvement in human rights, political freedom and democratic practices met defiant ears in Bangladesh. Lately, 174 global luminaries, 104 of them Nobel Laureates, castigated the Hasina administration for continued judicial harassment of Professor Muhammad Yunus and demanded the end of the vindictive treatment of the Bangladeshi Nobel winner and others. They also urged for a free, fair and participatory nation election in January.
French novelist Jean Anouilh warned, “Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way.” The Frankenstein effects!
Gag on Freedom of Expression
Faced with strong criticism from within the country, as well as around the world about the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA), the repressive Hasina regime came up with a new version styled as Cyber Security Act (CSA), which retains almost all of the criteria and punitive provisions of the former to control the freedom of expression. The intent is clear. “Sheikh Hasina’s government approved this draconian bill (CSA) in a rush in order to take advantage of its majority in parliament, before the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2024,” says the prestigious Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The Paris based RSF (Reporters Sans Frontier) further called for quashing the proposed CSA and repealing the existing DSA. Thousands, including minors, have been languishing in crowded jails under the DSA, some succumbing to the police and the RAB brutalities in custody.
The US based Coalition for Human Rights & Democracy in Bangladesh (CHRD Bangladesh) demanded in a statement August 9, 2023 that both the existing DSA and the proposed CSA be scrapped urgently. It also urged that the media and the journalists must perform their duties freely and without any controlling restrictions, more so because the important national election is nearing (https://chrdbangladesh.org/2023/09/09/statement-on-the-disinformation-propaganda-and-the-renewed-surge-of-attacks-on-the-media-as-the-national-election-nears/)
The Selfie Drama
Because of US sanctions, Visa Restrictions and continued pressure for a credible election, Sheikh Hasina’s wrath against Uncle Sam knew no bounds. She kept spewing venom against her country’s bread earner (The US tops as a donor, investor, importer, NRI remittance, and provider of funds in multiple projects for Bangladesh) in the parliament and outside it. She sees the US as her No. 1 enemy, publicly saying that the US didn’t want her any longer. Yet, she did not lose the opportunity to have a gleeful selfie with an obliging President Joe Biden in an informal moment during the G-20 Summit in New Delhi on September 9, 2023. Her administration quickly sent the picture viral with an undertone that ‘Hasina had won the US.’ To the contrary, Washington clarified that there was no change in the government policy towards Bangladesh.
All these demonstrate how desperate Hasina is, not so much for the victory, but for loss in the next election. Because of her past misdeeds in human rights, democracy, electoral frauds, corruption, judicial murders and harassment to dissidents, sellout of national interests and scores of others, she would be in serious trouble, including possible arrest and trial, if she were ousted from power. It is the ‘fear of fall’ that haunts. For her, it is a do or die scenario. She is desperate and trying to catch a straw, even that meant a selfie with her No. 1 enemy!
Writer is a former freedom fighter of Bangladesh in 1971. Authored a few books and co-authored few others. Regularly writes on contemporary issue of Bangladesh.