Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bloggers’ awareness shouldn’t be under estimated


ALTHOUGH so far, it has a small group of readership, but Bangladeshi officials took it seriously as its effect can be worldwide having an impact on present military-backed interim government.

The joint forces of Bangladesh, however later, gave the reason why they arrested Tasneem Khalil (26) on May 10, 2007, an editorial assistant of the Daily Star, a stringer for several news organizations, including CNN and representative of Human Rights Watch in Bangladesh.

He was detained due to his writing in the web logs about the random arbitrary arrests, torture, ill-treatment, detention, physical disabilities, psychological fear and panic, deaths in custody, deprivation of medical treatment, distortion and destruction of medico-legal evidences, concealment of the truth regarding cases of custodial torture, extreme suppression of the freedom of expression and absolute injustice to the victims by the administration of Bangladesh.

In addition, Khalil was involved with one of the report of Human Rights Watch on, “Judge, Jury and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force,” focused on abuses by the Rapid Action Battalion of Bangladesh.

Tasneem Khalil was released later, but is the present military-backed interim government really liberal to media even in web logs?

Web logging, or blogging, is the new kid on the media block, complete with its own, unique lexicon. The verb is to blog and the participant in blogging is a blogger.

A blog is simply a series of updated posts on a web page in the form of a diary or journal, often including commentary on, and hypertext links to, other web sites. Posts are in chronological order and can contain anything from simple text, to music, images and even streamed video.

Unlike the large media organizations, bloggers were unhindered by the normal journalistic standards of objectivity, balance and accuracy. This amateur output was raw, subjective and honest as people sought emotions, not detachment - finding solace and expression in the words of the thousands of blogs that sprang up.

If journalism is by definition the reporting of news in a fair, balanced and accurate way, then blogging is not journalism. But if the truth is that not all journalists and media outlets adhere to these principles, the distinction is less clear.

But blogs aren't as new as Bangladesh has experienced with such a detainee due to his writings in web logs. They have actually been around since the early days of the Internet.

Today's blogs, of course, are much more than that. In 1999 there were dozens of blogs. Now there are millions. Comments concerning human rights, social issues or politics in the web logs are now more subjective and reasonable like other form of journalism. So is it so easy to control the media which is almost open just a click away?

Like other journalists, bloggers in the world are not safe and arrested frequently due to their honest and strong comments.

Last year, Egypt arrested a number of bloggers who had criticized the government. Among them, Abdel Kareem Solaiman's, a former student of al-Azhar University, had been sentenced into prison for four years as he criticized the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.

Similarly, Christophe, a citizen of the city Puteaux that is close to Paris, France, didn’t like the way the city mayor was managing the city and spending the public money.

Hundreds of inhabitants of Puteaux was reading and commenting his blog everyday and many national newspapers talked about his blog. City management then tried to stop him for months and the mayor even sent him threats over the phone that he recorded and blogged.

Bangladesh has been under a State of Emergency since January 11, 2007. This is the fifth time has happened since the independence of the country in 1971.

Since the proclamation of the State of the Emergency has been imposed by the President of People’s Republic of Bangladesh, constitution of Bangladesh shall remain suspended including all fundamental rights.

Although restrictions on political activity have been imposed, but the government has asserted several times since emergency "no restrictions have been imposed on the media's freedom and functions."

US Ambassador to Bangladesh Patricia A Butenis also raised her voice for freedom of media from informal controls in her address marking the World Press Freedom Day at Dhaka on May 3, 2007 while administration of Bangladesh imposed a bar against Journalists to enter into the premises of special graft courts.

Practically, any government can’t work much better without freedom and functions of media as its citizen basic need to know the functions of government.

In absence of liberal democracy under present emergency rule in Bangladesh, it’s not a worth step to control or curb media from any point of view due to the big interest of its citizen.

As the bloggers reflect a big portion of citizen’s opinion honestly and emotionally without fear and taking any side of aisle, their awareness shouldn’t be under estimated. #

Ripan Kumar Biswas is a freelance writer based in New York. This article was contributed in May 13, 2007