Comprehensive Efforts to Counter Rumours and Conspiracy

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Published on February 10, 2021
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Dr. Pranab Kumar Panday:

Political opposition groups in every country tend to disseminate various forms of propaganda and rumours as a political tactic to undermine the government’s popularity. Consequently, every government across the globe remains watchful of rumour-making efforts to spread such adverse news about the government. The situation of Bangladesh is no different from other countries of the world. From the onset of AL's retention of power in 2009, it is met with immense resistance from various political groups and rumour mongers who spread lies and misinformation to form public opinions against the regime.

The intensity of propagation continues to rise in the last few years as the opposition parties struggled to retain the state power in the three consecutive terms. Social media has become one of the most robust mechanisms of spreading rumours against the government. If we refer back to the incident of Hefazat-e-Islam in Dhaka in 2013, there were rumours of killings of thousands of madrasa students by law enforcement agencies. These were nothing but baseless and fraudulent rumours. A rumour-monger network always spreads such rumours about the government to encourage the people to have a sceptical outlook of the government. The promising reality is that amid all their attempts, rumour-mongers could not manage to motivate people as the countrymen could judge the government's performance compared to the opposition.

When the AL government retained power in 2019 for the third consecutive terms, these groups remained dormant for few months other than spreading different news about the election's credibility. However, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, they were deliberately involved in disseminating fake information on the number of deaths of Covid-19 patients, lack of testing facilities, and the government's incapacity to provide health services to the people. However, they could not gain success in motivating people due to the performance of the government. Again, these people started spreading information about the government's credibility to purchase vaccine and offer those to the people. Even when the government signed a contract with the Serum Institute, India for purchasing 30 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, they started spreading rumours that those vaccines would not reach Bangladesh until the local demands of the Indian government are met.
When the government of Bangladesh received 2 million doses of vaccine as gifts of the Indian government as part of their "neighbourhood first policy" and the first consignment of 5 million doses of vaccine from Serum Institute, these groups again started propagating different fake stories about the efficacy of the vaccine. They blow out rumours that the Indian government would send vitamin and water in the vaccine bottle to Bangladesh. Their principal goal is to spread this form of fake stories to mislead the Bangladeshi people so that they do not want to get vaccinated. I firstly believe that the people of Bangladesh would not believe in these propagandas.

Outside the country, numerous groups remained active in implementing different conspiracy against the government. When the war crimes' trials were launched in 2009, numerous organizations hired paid lobbyists to obstruct the prosecution by disseminating rumours about the tribunal's legitimacy, fairness and the trial process. Even they could manage to get the government of powerful countries involved in their attempts to obstruct the process of prosecution of the death penalties of the war criminals. Due to the firm leadership of Sheikh Hasina, they could not stop the judicial process of the war crime tribunals.

The latest edition of this group's conspiracy attempt is the telecast of an hour-long documentary titled "All the Prime Minister's Men" in a Doha, Qatar based TV channel Al-Jazeera. It telecasted some unauthenticated information about the Army Chief and Prime Minister. Based on three controversial persons' interview, the TV channel claimed that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister maintains linkage with a few individuals engaged in wrongdoings with her help. In support of their claims, they could not present any valid proof. Therefore, it is very reasonable that this report should be claimed as a conspiracy against the Prime Minister. Though these reports, the internal and external factors failing to make a mark on the Bangladeshi politics in the last 12 years have tried to execute a plan of regime change in the country. Such a monstrous act reflects their jealously to Sheikh Hasina's leadership and the country's phenomenal development for the last decade.

As stated earlier, the spread of rumour and propaganda is very normal in every country. However, these rumours and propagandas become a major concern when these turn into a conspiracy that can be defined as a covert scheme by two or more influential actors aiming to oust political or economic power even at the risk of violations rights, infringement of agreements and disclosure of vital secrets.

In most cases, the opposition people try to execute conspiracy in the political arena to oust a particular regime they dislike. In Bangladesh's context, the documentary that Al-Jazeera screened, should not be considered very lightly as it seems that a group of people have managed to buy an international TV channel like AL-Jazeera. Therefore, every citizen of the country should remain vigilant about these groups' activities, which purposely broadcast non-authentic information in the guise of the documentary.

If we allow false information to get spread repeatedly overtimes, it appears to be the truth. We must consider these issues with the utmost seriousness as these people are very active in spreading rumours on social media. Therefore, both the citizens and the government should work unitedly to encounter such complots against the country. Even the AL as a political party requires playing an essential role in mobilizing a movement against those playing a plot of regime change.

All professional groups should come forward to disseminate trustworthy information against such conspiracy so that citizens do not believe in them. Even the government should take legal action against Al-Jazeera in the international court of law as they have intentionally screened a factious documentary to tarnish the image Prime Minister. We should not rest assured, thinking that these groups would remain silent after telecasting the documentary. It is apprehended that they would come up with more efforts to tarnish the government's image. Therefore, a united movement is required to encounter all propagandas and conspiracies aiming at regime change in the country.

Writer: Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi

Source: The Daily Sun