Eminent citizens of the country, including rights activists, journalists, writers, anti-war crimes campaigners, and minority community leaders expressed disappointment over US Ambassador Peter Haas' justification for visa restrictions on media and journalists, saying that it did not offer "substance" as the move contradicts core tenets of freedom of press.
A joint statement says it has come across media reports on concerns raised by Sampadak Parishad in a letter to the ambassador where editors have raised questions: "how will it be used in case of media?" and "what are the factors being considered?"
"The envoy in his reply refrained from offering any detailed answer to the questions, but defended his position on including media under visa restrictions, which left us in a state of shock," reads the statement in reference to the response by Haas.
"In our country, we found media taking up an instrumental role in creating awareness against radical forces, militants, and terrorist outfits like Jamaat-e-Islami that consists of war criminals and seeks to eliminate progressive and secular forces including religious and ethnic minorities and establish a Taliban style rule in Bangladesh," the statement reads.
The statement notes that Haas' remark on imposing visa restrictions on the media "has been glorified by radical outfits and anti-liberation quarters that publicly decry Western values, deems free thinkers as enemies of Islam, and vouches for impunity for war criminals who committed genocide and crimes against humanity in 1971."
Basherkella - a social media platform that acts as a mouthpiece for Jamaat-e-Islami, advocates for impunity of war criminals and reportedly stands exposed for running hate campaign against secular and liberal forces alongside minorities as well - has already hailed the US ambassador's remark on inclusion of media under visa restrictions and called him "a true friend of Bangladesh," according to the statement.
It sends a chilling message for every secular person, says the statement.
The statement was signed by 190 renowned citizens including Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee President Shahriar Kabir, educationist and writer Prof Dr Muhammed Zafar Iqbal, Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Oikya Parishad General Secretary Advocate Rana Dasgupta, eminent historian Prof Muntassir Mamoon, noted cultural personalities Nasiruddin Yousuff and Ramendu Majumder.
The statement also notes that the US State Department spokesperson refrained from mentioning media in the policy, but Haas did not withdraw his statement.
The statement says that the US commitment to upholding justice does not match actions, as the country continuously sheltered the convicted and self-confessed killer of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
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