Those pointing out corruption and mismanagement in the corridors of power may well find themselves behind bars
Shortly after the fall of the autocratic Ershad regime, a journalist, known for professionalism, left the country for good and severed his ties with journalism, the vocation that matched his passion for the truth.
Years later, he would admit that his attempts to chip away through the veneers of cover-ups and deceit had given him access to the handlers that manage and manipulate regime change. It also brought him face to face with the realization that truth could not be told.
Having battled his way out of a depressive stupor, he was left with three choices. Silence in return for lucrative financial consideration was anathema. Continuing probing at the risking himself and his family was a no-no. The third was to walk away, in conflict with conviction but an offer that time would stifle striving for truth by the need to live.
Truth can’t always be brought to the fore but can be lived with.
He wasn’t the only one that was bombarded with a surfeit of articles at the time, sensationalizing and taking apart the dictator’s public, private, and professional life that laid bare personal exploits and misdemeanours of his regime.
It takes two to tango, and groups to add nicety to the dance. Many names from different sections of society did the rounds of abetting misdeeds, having benefited in some way or the other. They too, have been obscured in the mist of time following the general exclamation of “oh my God.”
Cases were filed, defense and prosecution argued their submissions, and then the lengthy process of the legal system kicked in. The more minor issues were duly sentenced, the dictator went to jail, and within three months his party was re-elected as the third largest party that had to be reckoned with in government formation.
As the horses were let out of the stables for trading, cases lost importance and priority, and memory wore thin over time. Throughout, the dictator maintained a bemused silence, biding his time. Other main actors carefully stored information for disclosure at times of their choosing. When bits and scraps were made available in the sticky morass of intrigue, the context of these were, by necessity, coloured.
Most of those cases couldn’t be disposed of in 20 years. Death, being nature’s great leveller, has caused the burial of truth reprieving those on the bandwagon. Most of them can now enjoy the benefits of collaboration without having to look over their shoulders. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth may never be disclosed together, so help us God.
The facts are muffled among and by those that continue to live. For as long as it took to weigh up all options, the attempted murder, on British soil, of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his niece a few years ago was generous fodder for the media. There was much gesturing and posturing by the UK government.
Great drama was enacted of withdrawal of diplomats en masse by Western governments, their supporters, and Russia. Rusty sabres rattled with empty but impressive threats of “confronting” the Russian government.
A host of conspiracy theories as to where the poison came from had people looking towards laboratories in Russia, the UK, and Europe. The similarity with the search for origins of today’s pandemic virus is conspicuous.
The perpetrators were identified through technology, their footsteps traced, and the denials were vocal. When investigative journalism got too close for comfort a “security” missive from the UK government effectively muzzled the British media and it all became quiet.
The quiet continues. Skripal is now hidden carefully away along with his niece somewhere and the diplomatic strength in those embassies has been restored to that of old. That is as much as probably will be heard of the matter. It is almost as much as will be heard of about the Russian agent, diligently placed as a wife of a US citizen, thereby a citizen too, who did her work.
Once her cover was blown in a blaze of publicity, she was “exchanged” quietly and lives fairly incognito in her real homeland. Of course, there was a reciprocity that wasn’t publicized. The truth of how far she had penetrated the corridors of power was never made public. Nor was the level of compromise of the US’s secrets.
Such truth is too much for the poor amongst us to handle.
Truth exists beyond the boundaries of that which we are taught about in the man-made realms of social and criminal justice. Too much, too little, too early, and too late has weighted implications that can either reinforce or tear asunder the delicate fabric of society and justice. The previous affinity of people with human rights activists against extra-judicial killings is waning with the increased instances of wrong-doing that hide under the umbrella of impunity.
Throughout the world, media has been compromised under the weight of strictures, revenue starvation, coercion, or otherwise. Renowned media rocks have been forced to seek alms to stay afloat no matter their packaging of it as “supporting unfettered journalism.”
Some journalists have had to swallow pride and give in to the necessity of income beyond their vocation. Some, among these “some,” have made fortunes reflected by envious lifestyles. Politicians, businessmen, social thinkers, economists, and the never-say-die opportunists have learned to live with the sorry dissection of morals, different though their intentions may be.
Individuals and groups have taken advantage of backboneless administrations to establish and expand on organizations that no longer care to even provide a veil of propriety in abominable excesses. There have been protestations of sorts.
Even in countries with government-friendly media, the calls for action against corruption and mismanagement in handling the pandemic have resounded clearly. The remedy is usually to incarcerate the fall guys and protect the more sensitive players.
Public outcry usually results in some form of action that satiates at least an aspect of indignation. The reality is that coteries and vested interests have now created states within a state. Delineation between right and wrong is blurred. The former journalist plies a different trade in a small, stuffy office cocooned from the expanse of the world he once roamed. He was once one of us, not anymore.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.