Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bangladesh's Troubled November 1975: two interesting information

From: Military-Media Relations in Bangladesh 1975-1990, (by Rezwan-ul-Alam, Palok Publishers, 2008, Dhaka)

Page 206

When Bangladesh plunged into further political crisis which resulted in two military coups in four days, from 3-7 November in 1975, the Indian press was banned from making any editorial comments on the coup of 4 November 1975. (Sorabjee, 1977: 28 ). There was a feeling among members of the public in Bangladesh that the military coup of 3 November 1975, led by Brigadier Khaled Mossarraf, had Indian backing. So the imposition of pre-censorship on the Indian press was aimed at dispelling this notion. Four days later on 7 November when the second counter-coup, this time led by the rebellious soldiers in the Bangladesh Army, removed Khaled from power, all editorials on Bangladesh were also made subject to pre-censorship in India (Sorabjee, 1977:28).

There was no official explanation as to why a "press advice" was deemed to be necessary by the Indian government for reporting political events in Bangladesh. But it appears that the Indian government thought it wise to impose restrictions on the reports that might be used by the anti-Indian lobby in Bangladesh and elsewhere.

(Sorabjee, Soli (1977): The Emergency, Censorship and the Press in India, London, The Writers and Scholars' Educational Trust)

From Page 151-153

The events in the first week of November 1975 remain a mystery, as Bangladeshi newspapers at that time were unable to report what was really happening as a result of power struggle within the army. On 3 November Brigadier Khaled Mossarraf successfully elbowed out President Mushtaq Ahmed and became new Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA). Chief of Army Staff General Zia was removed from the post and Justice Abu Sadat Mohammed Sayem was appointed as the new President. All these dramatic events, except the official announcement of the new appointments, were simply missing from the newspapers' reporting.

The news of the killing of four prominent political leaders in jail on 3 November 1975 took two days to appear in Ittefaq. Its readers were only informed that the President had ordered a judicial inquiry into the event. A presidential statement issued late at night said: " It is necessary to remind the members of the public that the army was not in way involved in this criminal act."

The jail killing clearly upset the supporters of Mujib, who came out in the streets carrying the picture of the slain leader. Ittefaq's coverage of this protest’ on 5 November damaged the credibility of new CMLA who had already been portrayed as pro-Indian by rival political forces. Lifshultz (1979) contends that it was Ittefaq's picture which shattered the prospects of the second military coup of 3 November. It is difficult to ascertain now the real motives behind publishing this picture. However, the analysis shows that

Ittefaq strongly condemned the jail killing event in its editorial on 6 November. The black-bordered editorial said: "This killing will also alert those who are opposed to political views held by the victims."

No newspapers were brought out on 7 November when the uprising by the general soldiers against the army officers began. The following day, the newspapers gave extensive coverage of the previous day's event. Ittefaq published big pictures of President Sayem and General Zia. It also published a report on the people's jubilation about the "sepoy mutiny". Its editorial blamed adventurist and reactionary forces for attempting to negate the people's victory. A picture of people mixing with soldiers on top of a tank received wide coverage.

Ittefaq's open support for the armed forces was evident from the publication of three editorials within five days of the soldiers upsurge. Its editorial on 11 November urged the members of the armed forces to remain vigilant against evil forces who were trying to mislead and rob them of their victory.

On the other hand, Sangbad tried to show some kind of loyalty to its supporters by giving extensive coverage to strike news on 6 November. News of demands made by student leaders for restoring full status to Mujib as Bangabandhu (friend of Bengal) also featured prominently in the daily. Sangbad was decidedly shocked at the news of the jail killing and it condemned it in the strongest possible terms: "...there is no doubt that killers and butchers of these leaders are enemies of Bangladesh."

Following the soldiers' uprising, Sangbad also published front-page pictures of the three chiefs of services of the armed services on 8 November. A three-column picture of people celebrating-the victory also featured in the same issue. In its editorial it praised the role of General Zia during the troubled time of 3 to 7 November.

On 28 November Sangbad placed a saying of Prophet Mohammed in a reverse box­ item in the front page. The saying was: "Those who create divisions among friends, give pain to religious-minded people and abuse people, they are surely the wretched among Allah's creation." Another saying of the Prophet was also printed on the following day: "Show honour to honourable people and those who create division will not enter heaven and those creating division will be placed in a separate hell.