One thing that will be obvious to any serious follower of the human rights situation in Bangladesh is the watered-down coverage of attacks against minorities in the country’s news media. Especially when you compare the coverage to the distressing reports which dedicated activists keep sharing on social media.
In the wake of the anti-Hindu pogrom that has broken out across Bangladesh during this year’s Durga Puja celebrations, freelance Bangladeshi journalist explains this phenomenon in a series of tweets –
Media in Bangladesh have grown a habit of censoring news. Some covered the anti-Hindu violence so timidly that it almost felt as if nothing happened. So I spoke to 4 journalists — two from newspapers, one TV station and the other a news website — to understand what caused this.
Two reporters — both from two outlets known as friendly to the govt. — told me that two different govt. agencies asked them to exercise restraint in covering the violence. A news editor at another outlet, also pro-government, says they didn’t receive explicit instructions
However, he said, editors at the outlet figured something was off, given the dearth of news in other outlets, despite outcries on social media. “So we also followed them,” he said, explaining why his outlet was also so mute. In other words, they simply exercised self-censorship.
A reporter friend from a relatively independent newspaper told me that they didn’t receive any outright instructions. Govt. agencies might have thought the newspaper wouldn’t comply with the instructions or it would report on the issue responsibly, so no instruction was needed
The Digital Security Act (DSA) enacted in the year 2018 by the Sheikh Hasina government has also been criticized for stifling free speech and freedom of expression. Many times, it is seen that Hindus are arrested under the Act after allegations of blasphemy are levelled against them over social media posts.
However, the coverage by Bangladeshi media appears to be better than the almost complete black-out of anti-Hindu violence by Bengali media in West Bengal. Assam-based news outlets and Hindi-language media have done a better job at covering the violence. Even the meeting of Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari with the Bangladesh High Commission in Kolkata to protest the violence has apparently not been reported by leading Bengali outlets.
The English-language ‘national’ media is also displaying its usual Hinduphobia by resorting to watered down coverage.