Joining the dots in Bangladesh: #eyesonashulia, Development as Deceitfulness and a Muzzled Press

The Internet upload throttle idea has been shelved by the Bangladesh government in favor of a ban on a month-long ban on all forms of meetings, processions and demonstrations. The reasons given by the government range from 'law and order' to smoothing relief and rehabilitation work in the wake of cyclone Mahasen. Bloggers are not a much of a threat, street politics however is.

Whats there to protest about?
Following the Savar garments factory disaster, the brutal government clampdown on religious protesters that ended in a massacre on the 6th May, and a longer term brutality on protest at the unfairness of the War Crimes Tribunal, there certainly is a lot to be angry and organise about in Bangladesh. Not least in the garments factories of Ashulia, where workers are asserting their legitimate rights to a better life and non-exploitation by garments owners who can run up to 40 % profit margins on their backs.

International and national outrage at the garments sector has been Superficiality as Usual, clearing the way for Business as Usual for the government's war on workers rights. Last week a 19 year old sewing machinist operator Parul Akhter was found dead in the factory bathroom, in what the police say was a suicide. Workers were angered by this, and underlying conditions enough to agitate and compel factories owners to declare 'Holiday'.

Beyond Media Monitoring
Note how the Daily Star devotes much coverage to the reasonable factory owner and the factory owners lobby group, and the workers are represented as a baying mob not fit for quoting. The Hameem Group, which owns the factory also runs the pro-government Samakal newspaper.  The need for independent, and socially committed coverage in Ashulia is the demand of the times.  It would be great if some of the crocodile tears over Savar would translate into it.

For those who are interested, let's keep #eyesonashulia with attention to | police | paramilitaries | media coverage | owners | government | workers | families | organisers | international solidarity.

What I have observed  recently is that

  • the international human rights infrastructure prefers its victims angelic liberal and without back story 
  • media people like to make spectacles, collaborate with their clones and are lazy
  • photographers peer at politics over the shoulders of the police, or between their legs
  • the development industry talks about the practical, but runs away from the political
  • feel-good imagery and storytelling from the Savar disaster is used to bury even badder news.
  • between third rate journalism, selfish and complicit activism,  not enough is being done to connect the dots, here are some dots.

Relieving political violence, or cloaking violence with relief?
Government minister Syed Ashraful Islam's attempt to crown the latest strategy with relief is  par for the course in a country where much of the middle and ruling class are part of an intellectually and politically paralysing complex called Developmentshire.

Developmentshire is a series of relationships that is maintained when powerful agendas collude to 'develop' others. It is particularly strong and full of BS in Bangladesh, where selling and (not)solving poverty is a lucrative industry, with minor but increasing mIslamist participation. In recent months and days it has proven deadly, having been complicit in making the mood music and covering up for government brutality on religious protests. It can be quite funny|tragic to see when you encounter it, and should be delegitimised in the public interest.

This way of looking at the development industry, for what it is rather than what it says, helps us to understand networks of power. As the power elites of Bangladesh scramble to cling onto power and prevent us from knowing what they are really doing, is it in the public interest to know about their mutually beneficial arrangements with the development industry. After all, a comfortable job in an air conditioned office is a safe, unassailable place for an apprenticeship in bullshit, and who better than a member of the ruling dynasty to play the role of the Native Informant?

Some media editors finally resist the government's clampdown, but not the Dhaka Tribune
Yesterday, 15 newspaper editors and a web portal editor signed a letter demanding the release of Amar Desh editor Mahmudur Rahman , the restoration of Amar Desh, as well as the reopening of Diganta TV and Islamic TV which were shut down for their live coverage of government brutality at Motijheel.

However, the newly established  (read licensed), Dhaka Tribune's editor, Zafar Sobhan did not sign the document. Maybe he agrees with the Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, President of the aptly translated National Socialist Party, that such an appeal was 'not in the best interests of the media.'

1 comment:

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