After the documentary “All the Prime Minister’s Men” was aired, supporters of Bangladesh’s ruling party are accusing the Qatari TV channel Al Jazeera of having ties with Jamaat-e-Islami and being against Awami League.
Al Jazeera is concerned over the legal steps and pressures they are facing in Bangladesh after airing the documentary, producer William Thorne said while speaking with BBC Bangla.
BBC Bangla’s Masud Hasan Khan talked with the producer and published a report in BBC Bangla online on 21 February.
After being aired on 1 February, the documentary created much buzz in the social media, the mainstream news media and the political arena of Bangladesh.
Second part of the BBC report: Is Al Jazeera anti-AL?
Supporters of the ruling party are strongly alleging that Al Jazeera is anti-Awami League and is close to Jamaat-e-Islami.
When asked about the veracity of such allegations, producer William Thorne said that he could state with certainty the report has highlighted various irregularities and it had no political motive concerning Awami League or any other party.
He said, “We just carried out professional journalism, following information and evidence. This report is a classic example.”
Is ‘All the Prime Minister’s Men’ the result of normal investigation?
BBC asked William Thorne whether the report was the result of routine investigations of whether they had been fed the idea by any particular individual or group. In other words, was this the result of a plan?
In reply, William Thorne said this was not planned. He said, “We regularly research matters in which people are interested. People often give us documents, ideas, etc. In this particular instance, certain evidence was given to us. We scrutinised this and found the evidence to be strong. I felt this called for further research. At the outset, we didn’t start our investigations targeting Bangladesh. That was not our aim. But the information that we got, took us there.”
Thorne said, investigations into Haris Ahmed had begun in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. But Haris was the brother of Bangladesh’s army chief and was a fugitive. That is how one thing led to the other. This was not a planned investigation, but it was an investigation based on evidence.
How much did it cost to make the documentary?
Producer William Thorne told BBC Bangla that he would not disclose the amount spent on making the documentary. However, they spent as much that was required to make an accurate and evidence-based report.
Thorne said, “I can say we were fortunate to have enough money to spend plenty of time, to check and recheck all the information. So we spent whatever was necessary for the report. We carried out journalism so that accuracy was ensured. We are lucky to have had sufficient time on hand for this.”
Informant Sami’s real name was not used
In the report, the expatriate Bangladeshi businessman was called ‘Sami’, but that was not his real name. However, he talked openly in the documentary and didn’t try to conceal himself. He even said he was relieved at being able to reveal all this information.
Why was his real name and identity not revealed in the documentary, then? The producer replied, “It was as he requested. It is true that he seemed quite pleased in the documentary, yet his name was not revealed. That may seem contradictory. But that was his decision and we respected that.”
Is there pressure on anyone in the Dhaka office?
There was strong reaction in Bangladesh from the government and the army headquarters after the Al-Jazeera report was aired.
BBC Bangla asked Thorne if the Al Jazeera staff in Dhaka were under any pressure because of this. He replied, “I cannot say so directly, but in the past when a story on Dhaka had been filed, the Dhaka news team has faced pressure and questions.”