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Anti-State Spreading Rumors Fabricated Stories Raises Defamation Controversy

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Propaganda elections

Recent days have witnessed a resurgence of cyber criminals ahead of the upcoming twelfth national parliamentary elections. Several individuals and organizations, claiming to be foreign journalists, have been spreading rumors and gossip against key figures and institutions of the government through various social media platforms. They have been persistently demanding money from various organizations and individuals for an extended period. Failure to comply with their demands initiates a campaign of defamation. This cycle of defamation has targeted significant individuals and institutions in the country, ranging from the President and Prime Minister to the stock market regulator and Chairman of the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC). This cycle of propaganda has targeted various important individuals and institutions in the government, including the President, Prime Minister, Information Minister, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Chief of Army Staff, former intelligence agency personnel, prominent businessmen, and industrialists, creating fabricated stories and spreading them through social media.

This pattern of defamation has now resurfaced with the emergence of new online-based entities involved in spreading false information under the guise of a self-proclaimed national institution. Despite the existence of well-known entities engaged in spreading misinformation, such as Nagorik TV and Corruption in Media, several new deceptive organizations are now surfacing. In the past few days, an organization called “Organized Crime and Reporting Project” has been soliciting sensitive information from highly important government offices via email. Furthermore, the country’s intelligence agency has recently identified 15 Bangladeshi cyber terrorists operating in different countries. The list of these terrorists is currently being updated. These revelations are based on credible sources.

According to sources, following Nagorik TV and Corruption in Media, new social media pages and channels under various names, including Organized Crime and Reporting Projects, are actively engaging in defamation campaigns against important national institutions and offices. Several individuals, including Mustafizur Rahman, also known as Tito Rahman, Nazmus Sakib, Jawad Nirjhor, and Zulkarnain, are spreading various gossip and rumors against key figures and organizations of the government. Their defamation campaigns have not spared prominent business groups, government officials, important government departments, and even journalists. Despite some legal action being taken against these defamatory individuals and organizations, their activities yet continue.

Recently, a high-ranking government official from a significant government department sent an email to Orthosongbad, stating that our department has requested highly sensitive information through email. At the same time, they requested comments and information related to fabricated and misleading allegations against me personally. As I hold a responsible position in a crucial government department, I believe their hidden agenda is to tarnish my reputation socially. Since they are spreading fictional stories and engaging in defamation campaigns against not only the President and Prime Minister but also officials from various important government departments, I consider this as part of their malicious defamation strategy. I have come to know that they are targeting government officials from various departments in their defamation campaigns, using social media to destabilize the country.

Despite multiple attempts, it has been found that Zulkarnain Saer, a member of the Organized Crime and Reporting Projects, could not be traced.

It has been learned that a recent case has been filed in Rangpur against Mostafizur Rahman, also known as Tito Rahman, and Nazmus Sakib, who are associated with Nagorik TV based on YouTube. At least ten other individuals have also been identified as unknown defendants in the case. The Rangpur CID Police Superintendent has directed the CID for further investigation into the case. In addition, Jawad Nirjhor of Corruption in Media is facing a case under the Digital Security Act for posting offensive, false, fabricated, and defamatory information on a Facebook page. Another case was filed last year by a female journalist named Sajeda Aktar. Elias Hossain, known for spreading defamation from abroad, is facing multiple cases as well. Recently, a case was filed against Banaj Kumar, the head of the Police Bureau of Investigation, for engaging in online defamation.

According to sources, the cycle of defamation has resurfaced, fueled by the upcoming twelfth national parliamentary elections. Regularly, this cycle involves spreading fictional information against key figures and institutions of the state, including the President, Prime Minister, armed forces, and the police. Recently, a content piece titled “Sheikh Hasina Can Cause the Country to Collapse” was disseminated on a YouTube-based channel operated by Nazmus Sakib and Tito Rahman, both allegedly based in Canada. Furthermore, Elias Hossain, who works for a private television channel in the country, is also engaging in defamation through his Facebook page and YouTube channel. Under the title “Sheikh Hasina Being Exiled to Saint Martin,” he is spreading false information on his YouTube channel.

It is known that the alleged journalists, in their plan to defame individuals or organizations, first disseminate templated propaganda through social media. Later, they seek sensitive information from targeted individuals through email. They also attempt to extort money from these individuals and organizations. If their demands are not met, they resort to spreading fabricated stories and defaming the targeted individuals and organizations. Similarly, these tactics of spreading misinformation are also used to defame individuals who hold political beliefs contrary to their own.

According to sources, allegations of blackmail have been raised against Sayem Sobhan Anvir, the Managing Director (MD) of Bashundhara Group, following the death of the renowned Nusrat Jahan Munia. It is reported that a phone call was made to Anvir, demanding a bribe of five crore taka (Bangladeshi currency) in a case related to Bashundhara Group. Subsequently, Nazmus Sakib and Tito Rahman are accused of exposing the alleged bribery activities of Anvir. Notably, recently, a person named Arav Khan opened a jewelry store in Dubai and subsequently faced criticism in the media, leading to allegations against Nazmus Sakib and Tito Rahman.

Sources indicate that 15 Bangladeshi cyber terrorists located in various countries have been identified by different intelligence agencies. These individuals, residing abroad, have been involved in spreading heinous defamatory content against Bangladesh. The cycle of defamation involves fabricating stories and misleading information about various state and government figures and institutions. The investigation has also revealed Nazmus Sakib’s involvement in these activities. Furthermore, the National Telecommunication Monitoring Center’s (NTMC) Cyber Taskforce (CTF) team is closely monitoring and preparing updated reports on the surveillance of anti-state defamation through social media. They are also updating the list of defamatory individuals identified through social media from foreign sources. The NTMC has provided this information to the National Security Committee meeting. The meeting, held on March 22, was chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

A screenshot has been obtained from an English newspaper publication regarding Zulkarnain Saer

It is noteworthy that there are allegations of involvement in illicit drug trafficking against Zulkarnain Saer. In addition to being accused of extortion, even though not being a member of the armed forces, he has faced allegations of harassment in the guise of a lieutenant. He was previously arrested in 2000 in connection with a theft case. Several media outlets have also published news regarding this. It is reported that Saer Khan procured mobile phones and laptops by providing a false identity as a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) officer. He was arrested by RAB-1 on charges of fake checks. Born in October 1986, Saer Khan was dismissed from Cadet College during his tenure as a cadet. He became involved in criminal activities while studying at Cumilla Ispahani College. There are also allegations against him of harassing women. Since then, he has been evading his relatives and friends.

Furthermore, at the age of 17, in the year 2000, Saer Khan was caught stealing Major Wadud’s truck suit at ISPR (Inter-Services Public Relations). He was also caught selling stolen goods at Chittagong New Market. Even though he was not a military personnel, he used to wear the uniform of a Second Lieutenant. However, he was apprehended by the CMH (Combined Military Hospital) Military Police. Due to an uncontrolled and volatile lifestyle, he abandoned his son and was disowned by his father, Abdul Baset, who was a military officer. Later, on July 23, 2006, he tragically died in a road accident.

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Container rate surge enters longest stretch since the pandemic

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Container export

The spot rate for shipping goods in containers to Europe from Asia rose for a ninth straight week, the longest stretch of rising prices since the pandemic disrupted global supply chains in 2021.

The rate for a 40-foot container to Genoa, Italy, from China hit $7,029 over the past week, the highest level since September 2022, according to the Drewry World Container Index released Thursday. The cost to Rotterdam increased to $6,867. Both rates have essentially doubled since April.

For the busy trade route from Shanghai to Los Angeles, the rate rose for a seventh straight week, to $6,441.

While not all freight is moving at such elevated prices, the spot market for containers reflects the supply of available space on ships and the demand from importers. That balance has tightened during the past six months as vessels avoid the Red Sea, where Houthi rebels have attacked commercial traffic, including a bulk commodity carrier that sunk earlier this week.

Most container lines are taking the longer route around southern Africa, creating disruptions similar to those two or three years ago. Ryan Petersen, founder and chief executive officer of Flexport Inc., said “we’re right back almost to where we were during the peak Covid situation.” He’s seeing spot rates even higher than the numbers Drewry just reported.

“Right now, if you want to ship a container from China to here in the UK it will cost you about $10,000 unless you have a contract,” Petersen said during a Bloomberg Television interview in London on Thursday. “And by the way, most of those contracts that were signed at lower prices are not being honoured and they’re adding surcharges to them.”

Petersen said it’s hard to predict how long shipping prices will keep climbing, noting that carriers spent some of their record-high profits made during the pandemic on new vessels that are entering service through 2026, which should help ease the latest capacity crunch.

But he also said uncertainty about delivery reliability later this year is worrying some companies and motivating them to order now rather than wait. Among the threats is a dockworker strike at ports along the US East and Gulf coasts, which Petersen said might send container rates above their pandemic highs if cargo bound for those gateways is significantly disrupted.

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Why $12.2b export proceeds pending abroad in 9 months of FY24?

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When the country is in dire need of dollars amid a fast erosion of its foreign exchange reserves, $12.2 billion of its total export proceeds remained pending abroad in the first nine months of the fiscal 2023-24 – taking the gap between export receipts and shipment value to a historic high.

Bangladesh Bank data shows that export shipment value, as reported by the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), was $40.8 billion in July-March of FY24. However, export receipts through the banking channel were $28.6 billion. The gap of $12.2 billion was reflected in trade credit, a component of the financial account of the country’s balance of payment statement.

The widening gap between export realisations and shipment value has put pressure on the country’s financial account, as it is reflected in trade credit. The deficit in the financial account reached a record high of $9.2 billion in July-March, compared to $2.9 billion in the same period of the previous fiscal year, according to central bank data.

Earlier in the FY23, export receipts fell short of the value of shipments by $12 billion, a historic high, raising concerns among the Bangladesh Bank. However, this figure may be even higher by the end of FY24 if the current trend continues.

When contacted, a senior executive of the Bangladesh Bank, involved in preparing the balance of payment statement, explained the rising trade gap, saying that they found a significant mismatch between the EPB-reported export data and the realisation of export proceeds.

The central bank is now working to find out whether export proceeds are not coming home or if there is a problem with the shipment value reported by the EPB, he said.

He added that if any mismatch is identified in accounting between the shipment and realisation values of exports, it will ease the pressure on the financial account.

When asked for an official comment on this matter, Bangladesh Bank Spokesperson Md Mezbaul Haque did not respond.

At present, trade credit reflects the highest negative value among all components of the financial account statement. Trade credit became negative $12.24 billion from July-March of FY24, compared to only $3.96 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.

Central bank data shows that trade credit has turned significantly negative from positive since last fiscal year, with a widening gap between export shipment and realised value.

In the FY22, trade credit was a positive $311 million, and the financial account had a surplus of $16.6 billion.

Though the unrealised export value is rising, bankers have been experiencing a general trend in export repatriation.

When speaking to the news reporter, a senior executive of a private commercial bank said that the export repatriation trend is normal in his bank. He emphasised, “If exporters do not repatriate their proceeds, how will they run their factories?”

While common factors such as time lag and export bill discounts can account for mismatches between shipment and realised values, a senior executive at the Bangladesh Bank noted that the recent trend of unrealised export proceeds is unusually high.

The mismatch between export shipment and realised value has been notably pronounced over the last two years since FY22, following Bangladesh Bank’s decision to devalue the taka amidst a rising dollar crisis.

In the FY22, unrealised export proceeds reached $8.4 billion, with export receipts lagging 16% behind the shipment value of $52 billion, as disclosed by Bangladesh Bank data in the publication titled “Export Receipts of Goods and Services.”

Central bank data demonstrated that unrealised export proceeds ranged from 10% to 12% of the export shipment value between FY07 and FY21, with figures varying from $1 billion to $5 billion.

Responding to queries regarding the escalating value of unrealised exports during a monetary policy announcement event in June last year, Bangladesh Bank Governor Abdur Rouf Talukder explained that some exporters were deliberately delaying the repatriation of export proceeds to capitalise on currency devaluation.

He mentioned that exporters were permitted to retain export proceeds in their Export Retention Quota (ERQ) account, with a six-month time lag existing between shipment and receipt.

However, he expressed optimism that the Bangladesh Bank’s issuance of a circular to deter gains from devaluation would contribute to reducing the unrealised export value.

Earlier in March last year, the central bank issued a circular stating that exporters would be paid based on the dollar rate on the 120th day of export shipment, even if the proceeds came later. However, this circular seems to have had no impact on export repatriation.

Later, in another circular issued on 20 May, the Bangladesh Bank revised that policy, allowing exporters to receive the dollar rate on the day of encashing export proceeds. As a result, exporters will have an opportunity to receive the current dollar rate even if they encash the export proceeds after the 120th day.

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Dhaka, New Delhi Forge Vision for Digital and Green Partnership: PM Sheikh Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced today (June 22) that Bangladesh and India have agreed on a shared vision for a digital and green partnership aimed at ensuring a sustainable future for both nations.

In a joint statement before the media following her meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Hasina said, “Both countries endorsed the ‘Vision Statement’ to guide us toward a peaceful and prosperous future. We agreed to have a shared vision for ‘Digital Partnership’ and ‘Green Partnership for a Sustainable Future.'”

The bilateral discussions covered a broad range of topics, including water sharing from common rivers, security, and trade. Hasina emphasized the importance of India as Bangladesh’s major neighbor, trusted friend, and regional partner, highlighting the deep historical ties since Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

“Our relations with India are ever-growing at a fast pace,” Hasina noted. “Today, our two sides had very productive meetings where we discussed politics and security, trade and connectivity, the sharing of water from common rivers, power and energy, and regional and multilateral cooperation, among other issues of mutual interest.”

The Prime Minister added, “We agreed to collaborate with each other for the betterment of our people and countries.” She outlined a future course of action aimed at ensuring a smart Bangladesh by 2041 and a Viksit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047.

Hasina mentioned that several Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were concluded and renewed, with announcements made for future collaboration. She noted that recent years have seen sustained high-level engagements between the two countries, including visits by the Indian president and prime minister to Bangladesh in 2021 to celebrate significant milestones in Bangladesh’s history.

Reflecting on her own diplomatic engagements, Hasina recalled her last bilateral visit to India in September 2022 and her attendance at the G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023 as the leader of ‘Guest Country’ Bangladesh. “I am now visiting New Delhi for an unprecedented second time in the same month, June 2024,” she remarked.

Earlier this month, on June 9, Hasina attended the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his new cabinet alongside other world leaders, further underscoring the close engagement between the two nations.

During her current visit, Hasina will also meet with the Vice President and the President of India. She expressed optimism that these meetings will provide deeper insights into enhancing bilateral cooperation.

“This is my first bilateral visit to any country after Bangladesh’s 12th Parliamentary Elections and the formation of the new government in January 2024,” Hasina noted, thanking the Indian government for their warm hospitality.

In her concluding remarks, Hasina paid homage to the Indian heroes who sacrificed their lives during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971, expressing gratitude for India’s contribution to Bangladesh’s independence. She also extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to visit Bangladesh at his earliest convenience.

 

 

 

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