The right-wing Bangla daily Inqilab on Thursday published a news item saying the Awami League government had involved Indian troops to quell violence in Satkhira, based on “evidence” collected from the Internet and not verified by the newspaper.
Before Inqilab, Facebook page Basherkella, popular among the Jamaat and Shibir, picked up the news early last week from its like-minded news portals.
They claimed to have found two pages of fax and an email that “prove” the Awami League government had sought Indian army intervention in Satkhira.
The fax and email supposedly dealt with “correspondence” between high foreign ministry officials in Dhaka and the Bangladesh high commission in Delhi.
The fax dated November 6, 2013 carries the subject line: “Military Aid from India and Deployment at Satkhira”. To make it credible, the fax and the e-mail name real people with their designations.
While it does not take a Photoshop genius to prepare such a fax or email, a section of gullible people swallowed the contents without even asking if Satkhira was really such a battlefield that our army was not capable of handling.
This is unacceptable when our army is being praised around the world for efficiently working in many war-torn countries as UN peacekeepers. Is it not downright absurd for Bangladesh to ask for the Indian army's assistance and for India to agree to send troops when such a request is perceived as suicidal for any government?
For Inqilab, it was a gross editorial error not to have cross-checked the information.
There are more questions needing to be answered. How would the Bangladesh army take it had the government really wanted the Indian army on our sovereign soil?
Would the Indian military enter Bangladesh secretly when the government had “officially” asked them to be deployed in Satkhira? Would there not be a major movement of vehicles and weapons that could not escape the public eye?
Without any such evidence, readers were left with some faxes and emails that anyone can manufacture.
Prior to this so-called news, there had been a buzz among hardcore anti-Awami League people that Indian troops had secretly melted into the Bangladesh army on election duty.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia on December 29, while being resisted by police from going out of her residence, exploded in a flurry of angry remarks.
In one remark, she blamed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for the Pilkhana carnage and then went on saying: “Today a lot of unknown faces are seen about whom it cannot be said they are really Bangladeshi.”
What she implied was an echo of what is being spread through word of mouth.
One cannot ignore the power of lies.
For instance, on March 2 last year, Basherkella published an image of Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee superimposed on the moon soon after the delivery of verdict against Sayedee for war crimes during the Liberation War. This had triggered his followers to resort to countrywide violence, leaving many dead.
It revealed how a significant percentage of people could be so religiously blind that they could be instigated by saying anything that hurts their “sentiments”.
Basherkella and its likes had always served their followers with “photographic evidence” that was really many lies. They can portray night as day because they have a mission—to stop the war crimes trials at “any cost”.
The moderate right-wing BNP's politics has also become so desperate that its top leaders do not hesitate to use cheap lies to instigate people's hatred against the ruling party because it has a mission -- to go to power at “any cost”.
The ruling Awami League, which had resorted to shameless tactics to retain power at “any cost”, on the other hand resorted to arresting people and shutting down newspapers or websites for spreading lies. It has so far blocked 160 websites, blogs or links through the International Internet Gateways (IIG).
But shutting down a newspaper or website has not proved to be very effective as new propaganda websites are popping up every day. The nation needs a counter campaign based on truth, so that the lies will meet a natural death.
As a newspaper, we must raise the alarm that technology is available today to present lies credibly in the forms of photographs, audio or video. This situation demands that the media should be more cautious.