Friday, May 24, 2019 | ePaper

Commentary

Democracy needs international protection

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Editorial Desk :
The United States has said unlawful or political killings, forced disappearances, life-threatening prison conditions, freedom of speech limitations, negative government pressure and fear of reprisal by press and media, and impunity for security force abuses were the most significant human rights problems in Bangladesh last year.
US Secretary of State Michael R Pompeo formally released the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and delivered on-camera remarks on Thursday morning at the press briefing room of US Department of State in Washington DC. There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses last year, while the Bangladesh government took few measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces, said the report.
On elections and political participation, the report termed the December parliamentary elections "lop-sided" and said it was considered to be marred by irregularities, including     
ballot-box stuffing and intimidation of opposition polling agents and voters. It said the government mobilised law enforcement resources to level civil and criminal charges against opposition party leaders. The report also highlighted numerous reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings committed by the government or its agents.
It said both print and online independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views; however, media outlets that criticised the government experienced negative government pressure. Civil society said political interference influenced the licensing process, since all television channel licenses granted by the government were for stations supporting the ruling party. There were also incidents of journalists coming under attack by ruling party loyalists and intelligence men. Independent journalists alleged intelligence services influenced media outlets in part by withholding financially important government advertising and pressed private companies to withhold their advertising as well.
In such a climate of repression the international community needs to be more proactive with regard to Bangladesh to ensure that basic human rights like the right to franchise and the right to voice opinions freely remain unthreatened and available to all. Big powers like the US and the UK, among others, can do much to ensure that there exists a climate which is conducive towards criticism and change to ensure that basic freedoms are not trampled upon.
Micromanaging the country by managing elections like the elections of 2018 and the current DUCSU elections do no credit to the image of the government. The current fast unto death action of some students of Ruqayyah Hall is a symptom of the disease which currently manifests the nation. The ruling party has to understand that it can't fool all of the people all of the time -- and it should know when to give up gracefully lest it faces a hasty retreat.
The root of the problem is denial of good governance. Democracy is not just free election, it is the arrangement of good and accountable governance. We find democracy has enemy within the country. In modern times the government has become too powerful for the people power. If human rights have to be an international concern then saving democracy in other countries must surely be matter of real concern. It is a deception to talk of human rights without caring for democracy. We have to worry more about the enemies of democracy within the country.

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