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Mar 08

Shocking Yellow Journalism: Fake news on Sajeeb Wazed Joy kidnapping debunked

In recent news reports that grabbed the headlines in all major media in Bangladesh, it was reported that a US court had sentenced two persons, including a Bangladeshi national, for their involvement in bribing an FBI agent to collect information on Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, to kidnap him and his family and to harm them.

The story, which initially appeared on the website of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), the country’s national news agency, spread very quickly onto all reputable news media sites, including Prothom Alo, the Daily Star, Ittefaq, etc, all of which sourced the news to the original story by BSS.

Questions however, have begun to be raised about the authenticity of the news report, as no source of the news in Bangladesh (or the world for that matter) other than the BSS could be found to support the story, especially the claim that Sajeeb Wazed Joy was the subject of the planned kidnapping.

The main story, as appearing on the website of the Department of Justice and more recently  the press release regarding the ensuing verdict, was specific in the following statement:

Lustyik was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) who worked on the counterintelligence squad in the White Plains Resident Agency. THALER was Lustyik’s friend, and AHMED was an acquaintance of THALER. From in or about September 2011 through March 2012, Lustyik, THALER, and AHMED engaged in a bribery scheme. As part of the scheme, Lustyik and THALER solicited payments of money from AHMED, in exchange for Lustyik’s agreement to provide internal, confidential documents and other confidential information to which Lustyik had access by virtue of his position as an FBI Special Agent. The documents and information pertained to a prominent citizen of Bangladesh (“Individual 1”). AHMED perceived himself on the opposite side of a political rivalry with Individual 1. AHMED sought, among other things, to obtain information about Individual 1, to locate Individual 1, and to harm Individual 1 and others associated with Individual 1.

Now, if we are to believe the Bangladeshi media, this “Individual 1” is Sajeeb Wazed Joy. However, from where did the media receive this information? The following analyses may be used for shedding light on this dilemma:

  1. Reference to Sajeeb Wazed Joy as a possible candidate in a Daily Star report back in December 2014 with began suspiciously with the following words, “A former FBI special agent has pleaded guilty before a US court to bribery over confidential information about a prominent Bangladeshi citizen — believed to be Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.” It is mentionable that the wording does not detract from the fact that the assumption is mere speculation.
  2. The impartiality of the BSS, a government news organization, can be called into question, particularly taking into notice recent issues such as corruption in appointment of senior officials and the laxity of the institutional administration in this regard. Moreover, the Chief Editor, Abul Kalam Azad, is well known as a close aide of Sheikh Hasina herself, calling into question whether this news piece was published in order to achieve cheap publicity and resurrect more terrorism fanning boogeymen.
  3. No outlet in the American media was found mouthing the Sajeeb Wazed Joy conspiracy story. And taking into count the fact that press freedoms in Bangladesh are more of a privilege of a few than the right of all (several prominent print and television media outlets perceived to be favorable to the opposition have been closed by the government and are currently off air), it is hardly surprising to note that calling such a story a cheap concoction of government compliant media is but the truth.