As Bangladesh national elections are held every 5 years and the last national election was held in 2018, it may be determined that the next election will be held late 2023 or early 2024. On 24 September 2020, the main headline of the daily Janakantha newspaper was, “Conspiracy to seize power. Secret meeting with BNP-Jamaat in Jeddah”. A part of the news read as follows:
“Intelligence agencies have uncovered the deep conspiracy of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with BNP-Jamaat to seize state power with three years to go for the National Assembly elections. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a secret meeting of Pakistan’s intelligence agency (ISI) was held with BNP-Jamaat in which top leaders of BNP were present”.
Photo: The red coloured headline states “Conspiracy to seize power. Secret meeting with BNP-Jamaat in Jeddah”.
One thing that is clearly highlighted in the above quote is that the words ‘with three years left for the National Assembly elections…’ are referring to the upcoming national elections in Bangladesh. The last election in Bangladesh was held in the month of December 2018. Hence. The “intelligence agencies uncovered the deep conspiracy of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) with BNP-Jamaat to seize state power” involves the 2023/24 elections. This is what has been said in the Janakantha report published on 24 September 2020.
However, BOOM Bangladesh’s investigation shows that the information presented by the Janakantha report about the unknown intelligence agency on September 24, precisely that information was published in several mainstream media outlets of Bangladesh before the elections on December 30, 2018 as ‘ISI-Jamaat-BNP conspiracy plan’ around that year’s elections. Even Janakantha’s said report has been exactly copy-pasted from mainstream media reports before the 2018 elections.
Furthermore, ahead of the future election, in 2022 the government has appointed a public relations firm to convey the “truth” to dispel “misinformation” spread by “lobbyists” appointed by the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami in the US, according to the the foreign minister’s statement in the parliament. On the other hand, The BNP leaders later alleged that it was not them but the government who appointed lobbyists in the US. In reply to this, it was stated that the government appointed a PR firm and not a lobbyist. The lobbyists go to the Senate or State Department to lobby. The Bangladesh government appointed a firm to uphold the truth against the lies and falsehood spread by them.
In 2021, Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on requested all to follow the party’s designated social media pages or profiles to get the party’s updates as ‘misinformation are being circulated from some pages using names of the party or its leaders.’
In a release, he requested all to follow facebook.com/bnpbd78 for Facebook page, youtube.com/bnpbd78 for YouTube channel, twitter.com/BnpBangladesh for Twitter account of the party, twitter.com/BegumZiaBd for the party chairperson’s twitter account and bangladeshivoices.blogspot.com for the party’s blog site.
Photo: “twitter.com/BnpBangladesh” for Twitter was asked to follow by Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir to prevent misinformation from being circulated. However, the page is currently suspended.
|Prime Actor:A national newspaper named ‘daily Janakantha’.||Intent: Suggests aspersive behaviour||“deep conspiracy of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) with BNP-Jamaat to seize state power with three years to go for the National Assembly elections”|
Harm: The content misinformed people about election and politics.
Truthfulness: The content was fake and deceptive
Narrative(s): The content is aligned with the disinformation narrative.
|Audience:People in general in Bangladesh |
Platform: Newspaper website and newspaper
|Human rights:Right to information.|
ABCDE Framework Analysis:
It was a national daily that published the news against BNP-Jamaat, two political parties who are not in power. The primary actor behind such deed is not identified.
The news suggests that BNP-Jamaat and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are conspiring with each other to grab power and they are doing so ahead of the 2023/2024 national assembly election. However, clearly it was a news that was copied from another news published during 2018 national election. Hence, the intention clearly suggests aspersive behaviour to mislead people against certain political parties and agenda.
The content carries element of threat against certain political parties and misleads people in general. The language of the content specifically targets political parties- BNP-Jamaat. The content published was verified by BOOM Bangladesh to be fake and deceptive.
The target audience was people in General in Bangladesh specifically the voters. A major national daily was used to disseminate the content on a wide scale without any verification to its truth.
The contents threaten people’s right to information.
The Case has been identified as incident of disinformation because the content shows evidence of deliberately deceptive behaviour through creation of false news through national daily’s websites to deceive people and prevent them from making well informed voting decision.
It seems apparent that people rely on the media and newspaper, but its authenticity is at risk since media freedom has been restricted by political intimidation in the country. Fact checking organizations is a must for debunking the contents carrying disinformation. However, it is also the responsibility of the newspapers to ensure the truth however restricted they are. Newspapers educate voters which make them a great source for information during elections hence it is incumbent for them to stay neutral and publish verified and authentic content.