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Dhaka Tribune

Covid-19 management: Bangladesh envoy to US protests Asia Times op-ed

The article mischaracterizes the situation in Bangladesh, Ambassador Mohammad Ziauddin counters

Update : 25 Jun 2020, 01:35 AM

Bangladesh Ambassador to the US Md Ziauddin on Wednesday challenged an opinion piece published by the Asia Times, which says Bangladesh has failed to control the outbreak of Covid-19.

In his response published on the Asia Times on Wednesday, he said the op-ed, titled “Bangladesh and Covid-19: Disaster within a disaster,” had mischaracterized Bangladesh’s response to Covid-19 and is mistaken about Bangladesh’s past elections.

“Bangladesh is not suppressing the media during the pandemic,” he wrote in his counter argument. “Its 1,277 daily newspapers, including 258 that appear nationally, and over 30 privately owned television networks are free to report what they wish about Covid-19, including criticisms of the government.”

In the original op-ed, published on June 18, writer Sabria Chowdhury Balland, a political analyst focusing on the politics of the US and Bangladesh in international publications, raised a question as to whether the Awami League-led government in Bangladesh is “doing enough to ensure accountable and transparent administration to minimize the spread of the pandemic.”

She said the Bangladesh government seemed to have no choice but to reimpose a lockdown to contain Covid-19 transmission, “because of the total mismanagement of the first one,” and “the premature reopening of the economy backfired.”

Referring to a report on Covid-19 management by Transparency International, she also highlighted the corruption in the distribution of aid among those who were affected by the two-month nationwide general holiday imposed from March 26 to May 30.

“Even amid the extremity of corruption and mismanagement, the Awami League government has not abandoned even temporarily its characteristic surveillance and abusive actions against journalists,” she went on in the op-ed.

In his rebuttal, the Bangladesh envoy to the US said: “The government also makes its virus-related actions public here. Journalists are not being silenced. In the few instances that Bangladesh authorities have arrested individuals over Covid-19 statements, the reason has related to libel, slander and the spreading of false information that inflicted harm on the public.”

Ziauddin further wrote: “As for previous elections, independent observers from across the globe, including India and the Islamic Organization for Cooperation [sic], have said the current government’s wins in 2009, 2014 and 2018 were fair and free. Only the opposition party sees it differently for obvious reasons.”

This came in response to Balland’s comment that since 2009, the ruling party in Bangladesh had coerced its way to power without the people’s mandate.

“The government’s mandate has been strengthened by recent polling that demonstrates strong approval. The government’s approval rating last year was 83%. Seventy-six percent of those polled said they believed the country was headed in the right direction,” Ziauddin argued.

Balland, who is also the co-author and editor of “Bangladesh: A Suffering People under State Terrorism,” issued a counter response to Ziauddin’s arguments, saying he characterized well-documented facts as mischaracterizations.

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