A simple question comes to mind. Why would RSF have such ‘hatred’ towards Bangladesh? What harm has Bangladesh done to them?

A look at the report reveals that in 2021, Myanmar ranked at 140 and after the military takeover, it now has slipped down to 176. Through the international media we get to know to some extent how the Myanmar military, after taking over power, has carried out repression, how it has detained and tortured journalists. After the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, the country has fallen by 34 places in the index. Among other countries of the region, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have all slipped down in the index too. India has gone down 8 places, Pakistan 17, Sri Lanka 19 and the Maldives 15. Bhutan and Nepal are exceptions their improved ranking taking them up by 32 and 30 notches respectively.

The NGOs always see negative things everywhere and then there is another group who want asylum abroad and other benefits and so portray the country in a negative manner
AK Abdul Momen, foreign minister

Any country’s freedom of press is linked to the country’s political environment and circumstances. For those who keep a watch on the countries of this region where freedom of press has deteriorated, does this drop in rank seem unbelievable? Or does RSF harbour hatred for all of these countries too? It is only enamoured with Bhutan and Nepal?

In a report of the US-based Freedom House last year, it was said that among 210 countries Bangladesh ranked towards the bottom of the list of ‘partly free’ countries. From 2017, Bangladesh has steadily fallen in rank in this report for four consecutive years. In 2017 Bangladesh scored 47 out of 100. In 2021 it scored 39. The law minister then told BBC, “The report is absolutely biased and unsubstantiated.” We really want to know why everyone is so eager to give such ‘biased and unsubstantiated’ reports about Bangladesh.

There are further questions. The ministers talk about certain quarters who are continuously spreading propaganda against Bangladesh. They are obviously referring to BNP-Jamaat. But the question is, why would the international organisations listen to them?

Last month the US State Department published a report on the state of human rights in Bangladesh. The report stated that though Bangladesh law enforcement agencies were involved in abuse and corruption, there is information that they enjoy widespread impunity. The Bangladesh government has hardly taken any initiative to investigate and prosecute cases regarding abuse, killing and corruption. About the judiciary in Bangladesh, the report said that the law states the judiciary is independent, but even the judiciary has to compromise due to corruption and political influence.

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen questioned the quality of this report, saying, “The initial draft of the US report has been prepared on the basis of media reports provided by Bangladeshi officials in the US embassy in Dhaka and from information gathered from certain NGOs.” He said, “The NGOs always see negative things everywhere and then there is another group who want asylum abroad and other benefits and so portray the country in a negative manner.”

And the state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam’s reaction was, “It is very sad and unfortunate that the report is just a continuity of the reports in the past. It is just a repetition. I feel that the information has been collected from the anti-government propaganda machines that exist in Bangladesh.”

We are also curious to know what the large state machinery of Bangladesh, its foreign ministry and so many of its diplomatic missions abroad, are doing. Why will any embassy rely on the ‘media reports’ of their Bangladeshi officials or some NGOs, not taking the government’s narrative to consideration? Why would they take their primary information from Bangladesh’s ‘anti-government propaganda machines’? Why can’t the international agencies be convinced by the government’s narrative? So what are the lobbyist organisation hired by the government doing? Why is everyone so annoyed with Bangladesh?

Dhaka ranks above all in noise pollution, Bangladesh is No. 1 in air pollution, Dhaka is at the bottom of the livability index, with 1,252 people per sq km, Bangladesh is the most densely populated country in the world, it lags the furthest behind in minimum wages among Asia Pacific countries, it ranks fourth in the world for violence against women by intimate partners and third in child marriage, it is towards the very bottom in equitable development, only 3 per cent of the GDP is spent on health – one of the lowest in the world, it ranks 4th in the highest incidence of road accidents and among the lowest in digital quality of life. Is all this the result of the hatred towards Bangladesh by the organisations involved in these surveys?

Meanwhile, Bangladesh is doing well in many international indices too. In South Asia, it has exceeded India in per capita income. It is among the top 10 countries with fastest growth. It remains within the eighth and ninth place globally in foreign exchange earnings, fourth in rice production, third in vegetable production, second in readymade garment manufacture, it is ahead of India and Pakistan in the global hunger index, in earnings and life expectancy, and it has success in fish production. How should we take these indices? Should we accept these? Or should be take these to be the result of the index organisations and agencies being enamoured with Bangladesh?

When will our politicians be freed of their two-faced policy – ‘rejecting’ Transparency International’s corruption perception index when in power and ‘accepting’ it when out of power, as and when convenient?

* AKM Zakaria is deputy editor of Prothom Alo and can be reached at [email protected]

* This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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