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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Spin Doctoring and Deception in Bangladesh’s Poll-Politics


As the election is near, poll politics in Bangladesh has become more intensified. From 28
October, politics has taken a violent turn as the BNP clashed with police for the whole day and
announced a strike and continuous blockades till now.

On the evening of 28 October, an interesting event took place in the BNP office. A Bangladeshi US citizen, Mian Zahidul Islam Arefi alias Mian Arefi claimed to be President Biden‟s adviser
and told the press that he would report to him against the Bangladeshi government. Later, the law
enforcement found that Arefi was not an adviser to Biden.

In the age of information, Arefi is not the only deceptive element employed before the election.
Many dissidents and foreign journalists are also engaged in spin doctoring on behalf of their
respective employers. Chandan Nandy is one of them who garnered national attention. He is
making appearances on Bangladesh Talk shows defending his baseless stories. It seems such
activities aim to mislead the public ahead of the election for the desired outcome.

Mian Arefi BNP: A Cheap Thrill
Immediately after the daylong anarchy, Mian Arefi appeared before the media at the BNP office
in Nayapaltan in the evening. During the briefing, Arefi claimed to be Biden‟s adviser and told
the media that he would report the incidents back to Biden. He was accompanied by BNP leaders
Ishraque, Belal, and Lt. Gen (retd.) Chowdhury Hasan Suhrawardy. Arefi claimed that he had
recommended to his government to ban the Bangladesh Police, Home Ministry, Law and Justice

Later he was arrested over sedition and disturbing law and order along with General Suhrawardy.
During the interrogation, Arefi revealed that he was merely a stooge and that his statement was
taught to him by the retired general. It seems the „Arefi drama‟ was an attempt to revitalize the
activists immediately after the day-long anarchy and to deceive the common by exaggerating of
the BNP‟s external linkage with the Biden Administration.

Chandan Nandy- Dubious Journalist, Dubious Sources
While Mian Arefi staged a „cheap thrill‟, a more expensive screenplay is taking place at the hand
of Chandan Nandy – a Delhi-based journalist. Since September, Chandan Nandy has been
writing „explosive‟ reports on sensitive issues of Bangladesh- mostly without any validation,
ultimately reduced to rumors. Nandy is diligently publishing reports on a fringe online media
named Northeast News.

Since September 2023, Nandy has been writing industriously on Bangladesh‟s state affairs only.
He even published two articles in a single day on more than two occasions – hard work indeed.
He wrote 7 articles between 12 to 18 October. The industrious journalist has also written three
articles between November 9 to 11. The large number of articles in such a short period is quite
eye-brow raising development.

Anyway, Nandy‟s several stories have already proved to be false and misinformation. To begin
with, in September, Nandy broke a story about Bangladesh‟s Air Chief denied of US visa. But in
reality, the Chief has been visiting the USA between November 12 to November 19 at the
invitation of the US Air Force.

Then again, Nandy also hatched a story about a US deadline of 3 November for the government
to exit it would „face the music‟. It has been more than a week now since 3 November, but there
is no sign of the government‟s exit and no US action has taken place. Nandy also reported the
cancellation of the Victory Day parade as a precautionary measure by the government. But in
practice, it is routine work to call off the parade during poll-time government. He also hatched
stories about visa restrictions on 18 Bangladeshi persons, the Election Commission‟s fear about
US sanctions, etc.

Besides such blatant lies, the senior journalist also wrote extensively on many issues without
proper sourcing. His articles mention „reliable sources‟, „trusted sources‟, and „well-placed
sources‟ as the sources which contradict the basics of investigative journalism and raise
questions regarding the authenticity of the sources and credibility of the story.
However, Nandy is not alone in the business of referring to dubious sources to justify false
claims. His comrade in Northeast News, Saleem Samad also mentioned dubious sources to
justify his false claim regarding the recent 2+2 ministerial meeting between the USA and India.
Saleem Samad in an article published on 10 November on the same platform writes,
“Meanwhile, the United States Ambassador Peter Haas to Bangladesh has flown to New Delhi
ahead of Blinken‟s arrival. Sources said, Haas is likely to update the Indian and US sides on
where things stand for them in Bangladesh.”

In reality, Ambassador Haas did not travel to India. On the same day of Samad‟s article, The
Spokesperson of the US Embassy in Dhaka clarified the confusion. Haas even attended a public
event in Dhaka.

What Nandy and Samad are doing is that they are trying to create a link between isolated events,
they are continuously referring to either untrustworthy sources or making up „sources‟, implying
subjective interpretations and ultimately hatching politically motivated reports that are
misleading the activists and common people toward a greater danger.

Deceptive Politics Increasing Ahead of the Election
As Bangladesh is heading toward its anticipated election likely to take place in January, political
parties of all spectrums, vested quarters, as well as foreign elements, will try to score politically
for their gain. For that, they will rely on spreading confusion, spin-doctoring facts, and
instigating violence. Usually, political parties refrain from such nefarious activities. But the Arefi
drama reveals that the BNP- the largest opposition of the country unfortunately is also engaged
in these activities. That Mian Arefi- a trickster is facing the press in the BNP office is a very
unfortunate event and the BNP office can not avoid the responsibility. Arefi‟s association with
BNP leaders and General Suhrawardy- a pro-BNP figure suggests that the BNP leaders have
patronized the trickery.

Chandan Nandy‟s article also aims to subtly weaken people’s trust in the establishment. These
also inspire BNP and Jamaat activists to go for all-out during the protest- that may lead to
violence and subsequently may bring harm to both the activists and the common people. The
Nenews‟ second man, Samad may also have the same intention. These dubious journalists are
exploiting common people‟s lack of media literacy and questioning credibility. Lastly, There is
no denying that the diligent work of these tricksters is aiding the BNP in creating an environment
favorable for anti-government protests ahead of the election.

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