Saturday, October 15, 2011

U.S. cautioned Bangladesh not to shackle the press, civil liberties

SALEEM SAMAD

UNITED STATES government has cautioned Bangladesh to ensure that media outlets are able to exercise freedom of the press and that civil societies have the opportunity to be outspoken on civil liberties.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday voiced concern over the functioning of the Grameen Bank properly after its managing director Nobel laureate Prof. Mohammad Yunus was removed early this year.

Clinton speaking to visiting Bangladesh foreign minister Dr. Dipu Moni at the State Department office in Washington stressed transparency and objectivity in the proceedings of War Crimes Tribunal, which has detained seven Islamist as suspects for their war crimes during the bloody war of independence in 1971.

The US secretary of state also urged the government to ensure that media outlets were able to exercise freedom and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had the opportunity to be a vibrant contributor to the future of Bangladesh.

On the issue of the war crimes trials in Bangladesh, the secretary of state expressed her satisfaction with the meetings US ambassador-at-large for war crimes Stephen Rapp earlier had with the Bangladesh authorities and hoped that the trials would be conducted in conformity with international standards.

On Friday, at a regular press briefing at the State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland said United States is supportive of that initiative for war crimes trial.

United States earlier expressed concern regarding removal of Grameen Bank’s founder Prof. Muhammad Yunus, pioneer of banking the poor and urged not to harass him. The Nobel Prize winner empowered a million rural women to help alleviate poverty.

During the 40 minutes meeting, Clinton praised Bangladesh for combating poverty and terrorism.

In response her Bangladesh counterpart said, as a secular democratic country, having a free and robust media, vibrant civil society, looks forward to more effective cooperation with United States, a development partner.

Dr. Moni raised extradition of the mastermind of military putsch in August 1975 when the Bangladesh independence hero Shiekh Mujibur Rahman assassinated.

The foreign minister mentioned that among the six fugitives, the mastermind Colonel A.M. Rashed Chowdhury has recently moved to Los Angeles. She sought Washington's cooperation in the repatriation of the self-confessed assassin in order to bring an end of the culture of impunity prevailed in the country for more than thirty-four years.

In response to extradition, she said the issue had been under judicial process and assured her that the State Department would look into it, as quoted in official press release.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com