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Reporters Stand By as Biswajit Das is Brutally Murdered in Bangladesh

On Monday, 10 December, 2012, Bangladesh celebrated Human Rights Day with the aim of highlighting [bn] rights related issues pertaining to women, youth, tribal, poor and marginalized communities and bringing them to the mainstream discourse and policy related discussions. However, on that very day, the news that captured the nation's imagination and made the headlines across all the major newspapers, magazines and TV channels was the the brutal murder of 24 year-old Biswajit Das [bn], under full view of the public and media.

Perhaps he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Biswajit was stabbed to death after falling prey to violent clashes between the student wing of the political party in power and that of the opposition. It has been alleged that taking him to be a member of the opposition party, the cadres of the government's youth wing beat up Biswajit and then repeatedly stabbed him with sharp weapons in broad daylight and full public view. Later, the youth died on the way to the hospital. The shocking event took place on 9 December, 2012, during an 8 hour road blockade programme organized by the opposition.

Images and video footage of Biswajit getting stabbed has gone viral on Facebook and Twitter. Many Facebook users from Bangladesh have condemned the incident and uploaded these disturbing images on their homepage as a mark of protest. The images have been widely shared, leaving netizens with a feeling of alarm that such a thing could easily happen to them as well.

Clashes on The Street

The countrywide road blockade program by the 18-party opposition alliance ended after clashes left four people died and vandalism and arson spread across different parts of the country. Image by Ibrahim. Copyright Demotix (9/12/2012)

Pavel Mohitul Alam's Facebook status reads [bn] as follows:

অবরোধ চলাকালে বিশ্বজিৎ কুমার দাস নামের এক পথচারীকে ধারালো অস্ত্র দিয়ে কুপিয়ে হত্যা করেছে ছাত্রলীগ কর্মীরা।
আমিও একজন পথচারী। বিশ্বজিতের জায়গায় আমি নিজেকে কল্পনা করেছি। বিশ্বজিৎ আর আপনার-আমার মধ্যে তো কোনো পার্থক্য নেই। আজ বিশ্বজিৎকে কুপিয়ে হত্যা করা হয়েছে, কাল রাস্তায় হাঁটতে গিয়ে যে আপনি বা আমি খুন হবো না, সেই নিশ্চয়তা কে দিবে?
স্বাভাবিক মৃত্যুর অধিকার বিশ্বজিতের ছিলো না, আপনার বা আমারও নেই।

During the blockade, Biswajit Das, a pedestrian who was passing by that area was stabbed to death by Chhatra League cadres. I too am a pedestrian; there is no difference between Biswajit and you or I. Am alarmed to think that you and I could so easily face the same brutal end – who is there to reassure us that it will not be so? Biswajit did not have the right to a normal death – it's the same for you and I. [Translator's Note: Chhata League is the student wing of the current ruling party in Bangladesh - the Bangladesh Awami League]

Prior to this, many others have lost their lives in violent political conflicts in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, none of the murders have found justice. Blogger Russel Pervez rued [bn]:

… বিশ্বজিতের মতো মানুষগুলো জনসংখ্যা শুমারীতে নিছক একটা অঙ্ক হিসেবে বেঁচে থাকে আর এমন রাজনৈতিক অপমৃত্যুতেও শুধু মৃতের ঘরে একটা বাড়তি টালির দাগ হয়ে মিলিয়ে যায়।

People like Biswajit spend their lives as a mere a number in the population census and their untimely, accidental death simply adds a tally mark to the death count and disappears.

Media Criticized

When Biswajit was being stabbed, many reporters from both print and TV channels were present there, but none came forward to save Biswajit. Rather, they were all busy taking pictures and videos of the incident. Their actions have been strongly criticized  on social media, especially on Facebook.

Murtala Ramat wrote [bn]:

একটা মানুষকে কোপানো হচ্ছে, মারতে মারতে মেরে ফেলা হচ্ছে আর সংবাদকর্মীরা ক্যামেরা নিয়ে ছবি তুলতে ব্যস্ত!রক্তাক্ত মানুষটার জন্য অ্যাম্বুলেন্স ডাকারও সময় নাই! শেষ পর্যন্ত এগিয়ে আসতে হলো এক রিক্সায়ালাকে! প্রশ্ন জাগে সাংবাদিকতা কী মানবিকতার উর্ধ্বে উঠে গেলো নাকী!

A person is getting beaten and stabbed to death and news reporters are busy clicking photos. They had no time to call an ambulance even. In the end, it was a rickshaw puller who came forward. The question that one is forced to ask is ‘has reportage become a greater priority than humanitarian response'?

The photographers and TV crews filmed the atrocities and nobody took the initiative to protect the victims. Image by Ibrahim. Copyright Demotix (9/12/2012)

Ali Sayed Mahbub commented [bn]:

… মঙ্গলবার ও হরতাল। আমাকে অফিসে যেতে হবে। পথচারী আমিও হবো। মিছিলের মাঝে পড়বো। ককটেল ফুটবে। ভয়ে দৌড় দিবো। তখন ছাত্রলীগ বা ছাত্রদল বা ছাত্র শিবির অন্য পক্ষের মনে করে আমাকেও এভাবে চাপাতি দিয়ে কুপিয়ে লাশ বানাবে।

২০টা টিভি চ্যানেলের ৪০ জন কর্মী, ২০টা নিউজ এজেন্সির ৪০ জন সাংবাদিক, অসংখ্য পুলিশ, অসংখ্য জনতা আমার মৃত্যুবরণ দৃশ্য দেখবে, ভিডিও করবে। ১০টা চাপাতিধারী পশুর বিরুদ্ধে ১০০ জন মানুষ দাঁড়াবে না। তারা ভিডিও করবে-হত্যা নিয়ে নিজস্ব প্রতিষ্ঠানের কাটতি বাড়াবে। আমার মত অধমের মৃত্যুর মূল্য বেড়ে যাবে বহুগুণ।

On Tuesday there is another political protest planned. I will have to go to the office. I will have to pass through the rally. Bombs will be thrown and I will run in fear. Then Chhatra League or any other student wing of political parties will mistake me for being a member of the other party and hack me to death.

Forty journalists from twenty TV channels and a similar number of print journalists, a large contingent of police personnel and general public will stand by and witness, photograph and take video footage of my brutal murder but even a hundred people will not stand up against a mere ten sword-wielding ruffians. The media will be busy garnering TRPs of their channels and increasing sales of their own newspapers and magazines. The price of my death will go up manifold as an enabler of their business advantage.

Ekramul Haque Shamim has posted [bn]:

পুরান ঢাকার জজকোর্ট এলাকায় চাপাতি দিয়ে কুপিয়ে, রড দিয়ে পিটিয়ে, লাঠির বাড়িতে রক্তাক্ত করে মারা হয়েছে বিশ্বজিৎ দাসকে। বার বার সে চিৎকার করে নিজেকে নির্দোষ দাবী করলেও তাকে রেহাই দেওয়া হয়নি। আশেপাশে এতো এতো মানুষ তা দেখছে, এতো এতো মিডিয়া ব্রেকিং নিউজের জন্য ফুটেজ সংগ্রহ করছে, এদের কেউ বিশ্বজিৎ দাসকে বাঁচানোর জন্য চেষ্টা করলো না!

In Old Dhaka Judge's Court area, Biswajit Das was beaten with iron rods and repeatedly stabbed, to death. He kept screaming that he was innocent and merely passing by but still he was not let off. There were so many people around, so many media personnel recorded the event as their breaking news but not a single person came forward to try and save Biswajit!

Fire on vehicles

Activists of the BNP-led 18-party alliance set fire to few vehicles at Kanchpur in Narayanganj during countrywide blockade program. Image by Ibrahim. Copyright Demotix (9/12/2012)

Photojournalist Hasan Bipul has however protested against the criticism being levelled against the media in this incident. He commented [bn]:

কোনোমতেই একমত পোষণ করতে পারছি না শামীম। যার যা কাজ তারই সেটা করা উচিৎ। এই ছেলেটিকে রক্ষা করার প্রথম দায়িত্ব রাষ্ট্রের এবং রাষ্ট্রের পক্ষ থেকে রক্ষার প্রথম উদ্যোগটি আসা উচিৎ ছিল পুলিশের কাছ থেকে। মিডিয়ার কাজ জন নিরাপত্তা দেয়া নয়।

I am sorry Shamim, but I simply cannot agree with you on this. Everyone should do their job. It is not the duty of the media to offer protection to the members of the public. That is the duty of the State and as an enforcer of the State, it was the duty of the police force to come forward to save the youth.

However people like PsychoSaika are not willing to buy this logic and has tweeted [bn]:

@princess_saika: “তুই মানুষ, না সাংবাদিক?” – এই সময়ের জন্য একটা ভালো গালি হতে পারে এটা!

“Are you a human or a reporter?” – This can become a good, modern day phrase for berating someone.

  • Gereon

    This is a tough one.

    I know that I will most likely be alone on this one, but I do think the reporters did the right ting. Reporters need to stay neutral. Otherwise they would become targets themselves.
    Some reporters have achieved to be at places nobody else can get access to and talk to people nobody else can talk to. It may sound like a contradiction, but this is a capability we need as a civilized society.

    Just like we need judges to decide unemotively on the grounds of law, no matter how barbarous the crime, we need reporters to stay neutral as long as their own life is not in danger, even if at first glance this might be against any sanity and reason.

    Even warlords, dictators or murderers on the run should feel safe in the presence of a reporter.

    This does hurt and I don’t like it myself, but I think it’s the right way to go.

    But to be clear: I think this applies to professional reporters only, not bystanders or just people holding a camera.

    • Chan Myae Khine

      I have heard a story since I was very young. A man asked a monk : “I was taught to save every living things’ lives but at the same time, I was taught not to harm any living things. Let’s say if I saw a tiger trying to kill a human in the forest, should I save the man? Because saving that man would make tiger starved which means I would harm the tiger. What should I do in such situation?”

      “Dear, think what would you do if that man was your dad or mom? And that is the answer for you”, replied the monk.

      I guess this can imply to such journalist-humanitarian situations, too. I don’t think any awesomely professional journalist would watch and take report if the victim was their brother in this very case.

      • Gereon

        http://bit.ly/SSwhoG

        One of the important photographs of our time.
        What is ist that Robert Capa should have done.
        Drop the camera and try to save the man’s life?
        This image is an icon (at least if you take it with a grain of eurocentrism)

        It is all about the futility of war.

        I think we need these people out there.

        And I think they have to stay neutral.

        Just like we don’t want the judge of a trial not to be a brother of the victim.

        • NATO

          Robert Capa faked that photograph.

        • Chan Myae Khine

          Everything has its limit. If someone was committing suicide with a gun or knife or some people are using such thing to kill someone, yes, journalists should take care of their safety first especially if he/she was alone.

          But in this very case, there were “a number of” reporters and they seemed to have the ability to somehow stop that awful crime.

          Then again, what is the purpose of journalists taking such so called important photo? To let us know? To warn the world? To inform the people in the other side? Then, what is more important for us – the victim’s life or the information that such event happened there? What’s more important to the world – the victim’s life or getting the warning? What’s more important to people in the other side? – the victim’s life or the information again?

          Law is nothing to compare with this. A judge (if he/she is fair) can be in trial even his/her relatives were accused as victims because it will be before “law”. In this very case, a person, a human, someone like us living his own life died for “NOTHING”. Even if he were being punished in such case, it should be the responsibility of every human being to send him to police or equivalent regardless of our professions.

          I don’t know what’s the values of today society. Some part of our world is already screwed up with so called definitions.

      • joe

        this correlation do not fit the circumstances here, if its a tiger eating an animal and you should let the course of nature takes its course but if its a man then in the name of humanity you should prevent the horrific death of that human being. but here the murderer is not a tiger and not killing bisawjeet is not matter of survival for them rather hate. in this case journalist should not interfere with whats happening rather document the fact. if the journalist interfere he not only put him/her self in danger rather puts every journalist in danger of future retaliation. therefor at this type of situation journalist should stick to his/her professional instinct and document the fact without contamination even if its results a death of another being.

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    Cowardice will speak loudly. And cowards will vehemently defend cowardice – even if it is the failure and, ultimately, self-defeat of another coward.

    The dignity and worth of the human person is an apriori and necessary proposition of our existential, social and political condition. One’s duty as an employee, professional, artist, etc. is secondary to our profound obligation to help the other who faces immediate, great danger.

    Any confusion of this represents a cultural problematic of considerable scandal. Such confusion also signals that human happiness, freedom and life are themselves at peril.

    I also suppose that enlightenment shall not be found in Bangladesh. Nor among the company of journalists.

    • http://www.facebook.com/manzoor.sarkar Manzoor Husain Sarkar

      I think you are fully right about all what you said .

  • Pingback: Cowardice will speak loudly. And other social media DOHs. « The unofficial blog of Stan Faryna

  • Dave

    Major Md. Abdul Muttakim violated a young girl with a bunch of hired hooligans with the main objective of “Home Grabbing” Police was watching with amusement. She and her father got tragically wounded in the event…. for more info Pls check the net surfing: Lt. Col. Rashidul Alom RAb-1 Co. an insulator of crime and an ally of injustice. WILL UNCOVER ALL HIS LISTED WRONGDOINGS….

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  • http://twitter.com/Fugstarnagar Fuad

    I have walked through riots in bangladesh and to a large extent the journalists and photographers incite them, shap them and egg them on.
    they are following after their editor’s example. sick.

  • Pingback: Bangladesh unmasked – December 2012 « Surreal Soliloquies

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