February 11, 2013

Shahbag Protest Sparked by Social Media

With the spark from the social media, Shahbag turned into a protest, demanding the capital punishment for 1971 war criminals. Shahbag protest has turned into a strict demand, searching only for the death penalty for all those who committed war crimes.

The spark erupted after Abdul Quader Molla, the secretary general of Bangladesh's Islamist party Jamaat-e Islami was sentenced to life in prison for murder, rape, torture and other crimes committed during the 1971 liberation war. With the verdict, Shahbag turned into Tahrir Square in Bangladesh.

The protest started from this Facebook event is titled: "Protest Against the Ruling Made for Quader Mulla". Till now, there are more than 12,000 Facebook users who are attending the event. Their only demand from dawn to dusk is to change the verdict. The Facebook event was created by Bloggers and Online Activists Network (BOAN) in order to protest against the verdict. Facebook still continues to play a major role in the protest as users of Facebook spread their message through video, photos and words. ICSF and Kazi Sudipto as well as many others started to share photos from their experience in the protest.

Quader Molla is proven to be in association with the killing of Pallab, a Bangla College student and the burning and killing of Hazrat Ali Laskar, his wife, two daughters (of whom one was raped) and two year old son. Additionally, he was also convicted of three other charges that had been proven. He wasn't given the death sentence even though Bangladesh still allows death sentence to be carried out.

The whole incident has been manipulated throughout the media. Some sources said that Associate Press had reported at the beginning that the event was by Jamaat-e-Islami themselves and that news spread to many news agencies throughout the world such as ABC and the Miami Herald. BBC was also brought into question when they emphasized on focusing on Abdur Razzaq, the lead lawyer for the Jamaat leaders facing trial, who described the tribunal as "a witch hunt". BBC's inaccuracies were also questioned, which led the BBC Bengali division to closely monitor the event and write clearly. Toby Cadman of The Huffington Post writes in a sympathetic tone towards Khaleda Zia, the opposition leader of Bangladesh. There was much more emphasis of the death of Jamaat activists and ICT was blamed for censorship. Many human rights activists are protesting themselves against the death penalty of the war criminals, to which Bangladeshi Facebook users are growing furious. All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Council will be reporting about the ruling that would be made in the case to see if it is justified by human rights to which many Bangladeshi citizens oppose.

Many Facebook groups started to spread words of small emphasis in order to spur the attention of the media towards the other direction. Faraeji Andolon, Converse News, and Basherkella are three of those Facebook groups that has started to spread various biased news supporting the Jamaat. They are spreading news of one of the main leaders of the campaign being hurt by other members of the same group. Bangladeshi bloggers are blaming Ekushey TV (a private TV channel) for their wrong emphasis on the issue and creating a mob out of it. Many are also blaming them for spreading the news to change the public's attention from the actual event.

A new website has been constructed for the issue and @ShahbagSquare has become a major Twitter feed for updates of Shahbag. The protest has also been carried out to other nations which has been captured by Flickr. Many of the Bangladeshi blog aggregates have erupted as well, protesting for the death sentence of war criminals including Sachalayatan, Amarblog and Somewhereinblog. The location of the protest has also been renamed to "Projonmo Chattor" after the protests had started. Without meeting their demands, the protesters said that they will not move. These demands includes: capital punishment for Quader Mullah and all war criminals, ban on Jamaat and boycott on all Jamaat institutions. Kader Molla death was demanded in Causes.com and the petition has already received more than 5,000 signatures. #shahbag has become one of the important hashtags in Twitter. An online radio has also been started to protest against the ruling that alludes to the Swadhin Bangla Betar that gave the Bangladeshis news during 1971.

Article first published as Shahbag Protest Sparked by Social Media on Technorati.

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