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Monday, April 14, 2008

The truth, and nothing but the truth…says who?

GHRD ended up in the middle of the Swedish media battle last week when investigating a murder in Bangladesh. Ashit Biswas, 32, disappeared in 2005 and the remains of his body were found last week – elucidating another uninvestigated crime in Bangladesh. Usually, the ‘West’ show little interest in what’s going on in Bangladesh.

But this case is different. The suspect, Joy Rahman, is something of a media celebrity in Sweden, where he spent eight years in prison for murder, before being found innocent by the Supreme Court. It was the scandal of that time. Rahman cried out in media, a victim of a racist prejudiced justice system. He moved back to Bangladesh and started a foundation for the money he was given as compensation. Not that money could ever compensate eight years of declined freedom! But it helps. Especially in Bangladesh, where money is the answer to all problems, including legal ones.

Now, everyone wanted their share of this story. The question of guilt – and victimization is central and divided the Swedish and Bangladeshi press. In Sweden, they are eager to portray Joy Rahman as another victim of corruption and illegality in a non-existent Bangladeshi justice system. In Bangladesh, some media want to see Joy Rahman hanged by tomorrow, whether there is evidence or not.

As for me, I am referring to the rule of law, to objective reporting and to respect Rahman’s right to presumption of innocence whilst searching the truth about Ashit’s death. Media cannot, and should not, determine guilt. In Western Europe, most of us are skeptical to the ‘facts’ produced by media, but rely on a court verdict.

But when working in Bangladesh, this perception of ‘truth’ is challenged. Here, police investigations and verdicts are for sale. The police fabricate charges, plant evidence and force through confessions under torture on routine. Meanwhile, many media in Bangladesh are opposing this corrupt system, struggling to work independently to expose the truth.

So what do we know? Well, whereas many criminals escape trials; innocents are also convicted, imprisoned and executed. The question now is; to which category does Rahman belong? And says who?