Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy among writers, artists urging Bangladesh #FreeShahidul

FreeShahidul

Academics, writers, artists and journalists around the world , including Noam Chomsky, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Patrick Farrell, celebrated writers Arundhati Roy and Bapsi Sidhwa, artist and daughter of poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz Salima Hashmi, historian Ayesha Jalal, Urvashi Butalia, and others from Harvard to UC San Diego, have urged the Bangladesh government to free the detained photojournalist Shahidul Alam, picked up on 5 August — see statement and endorsements below. See also eminent photographer Raghu Rai’s powerful open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. and the Change.org petition urging Dhaka police to drop charges and release him.

Shahidul Alam’s detention underlines the growing crackdown on dissenting voices in Bangladesh, in a pattern that is visible elsewhere too. The court denied him bail and gave the  police a seven-day remand. This was subsequently reduced and the court ordered that Shahidul be sent to a hospital and given an immediate medical exam and treatment. However, at the time of writing (Aug 7), he is still at the Detective Branch and has not been moved to hospital. (UPDATE Aug 8: He was moved to hospital amid tight security and a few medical tests conducted. His family was allowed to visit him before he was taken back to the DB Special Branch centre).
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Dr Sarwar blog; my ‘Media Matters’ chapter in new book on Pakistan India divide

Hello all, it’s been a while since I last posted anything to this list. Have been caught up in a bit of a backlog.

Have uploaded new material, including photos, to the Dr Sarwar website – www.drsarwar.wordpress.com

Please do check it out. Suggestions, comments and inputs welcome

Cover 'The Great Divide'

Cover 'The Great Divide'

Recently received a copy of the India International Center quarterly to which I contributed a chapter (excerpt below), published recently by Harper Collins, India. I dipped into it – loved the chapter by Sonia Jabbar & was happy to see that Mukul Kesavan, one of my favourite writers, also has a chapter, besides other luminaries like Urvashi Butalia, Amit Baruah (former The Hindu correspondent in Islamabad),and Pervez Hoodbhoy plus a short story by Danial Muinuddin.

‘The Great Divide: India and Pakistan’ (Hardback, 360  pages)
Edited by Ira Pande
ISBN: 9788172238360
Cover Price: Indian Rs. 495.00

http://www.harpercollins.co.in/BookDetail.asp?Book_Code=2313

BOOK SUMMARY
At a time when India and Pakistan are both reeling under terror attacks and hysterical talk of an impending war, it is important to take stock of where we have reached, individually and as part of the Indian subcontinent; sixty years after the two nations were carved out as two distinct entities.

This volume of essays by writers from both sides of the border attempts to do just that. As the editor, Ira Pande, says in her introduction, ‘There is a balance here between the ‘hard’ topics (politics, economy, diplomacy, religion et al) and ‘soft’ (music, crafts, language, cricket, cinema) to bring out the full range of our engagement with each other.’

Below: Excerpt from my chapter

‘Media Matters’

Beena Sarwar

(excerpt begins)
Ask anyone what they think the major problems in society are, and chances that the media will figure somewhere in the answer. Ask about possible solutions and the answer again will include the media in some way. So is the media part of the solution or part of the problem? Or is it, as some think, the problem itself? Do journalists simply mirror society – reflect the good and the bad — or do they actually shape perceptions and agendas? Equally crucially, do they act independently or do they ‘manufacture consent’ for their governments and corporate owners? Have the media contributed to rising tensions between South Asia’s nuclear-armed neighbours, or are hostilities between the countries contributing to tensions between their media? Has the media boom brought people closer, or is it driving a greater wedge between them?

The answer is ‘yes’, to all these questions.

The ‘media’ of course are not a monolithic entity. The news media includes print, television, radio and more recently the ‘new media’ – websites and web logs or ‘blogs’ posted on the Internet. The ‘popular’ or ‘entertainment’ media includes film and advertising. Crucial to the role of the media is the continual blurring of the line between the news and entertainment media.

The media boom has on the one hand brought the people of India and Pakistan closer together and contributed to shattering stereotypes. On the other hand, it has done just the opposite, reconfirming prejudices and old suspicions.

The 24/7 news media boom has also spawned a beast that thrives on 30-second sound bites and shrinking attention spans around the world. It is not big on in-depth analysis and prefers speculation. It tends to bypass contextualisation for quick updates. The race to be the first to ‘break’ the news often leads to misreporting and inaccuracy. Peace talks and negotiations which would be more effective away from the media spotlight are routinely sabotaged by leaks and overreactions to those leaks.

Broadcasting belligerent statements by one politician or other is damaging anyway, but worse when these are cross-border taunts and challenges. The media has a duty to report, but giving weight to negative statements and events contributes to the hardening of stances and reinforcing of negative stereotypes. Of course, it also exposes the belligerent nature of those making such statements for all to see.

(excerpt ends)

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