Where do you live stranger? You may live anywhere on the globe. But if you are a bit interested in the war crime trial proceedings in Bangladesh, by now you must be well informed about the so called ‘explanation’ issue thrown towards the International Crimes Tribunal-1 (ICT-1) by the Economist.
The Economist hurls the ‘explanation bomb’ as the ICT summons two of its members on 6th December, 2012. Why have the ICT summoned the Economist staffs? Cause they are asked to explain how they have gone by emails and conversations between the ICT-1 chairman and Ahmed Ziauddin, a lawyer of Bangladeshi origins based in Belgium.
The Economist has not mentioned yet from where it got the hacked records. But a Bangladeshi website has noted that the records were available on some pro Jamayat-e-Islami Facebook group even before the publication or notification by the Economist. It would be worth to mention here that all most all of the War Criminals, that are being tried, are top Jamayat leaders.
Why did the court summoned British newspaper’s chief editor, and its South Asia chief Adam Roberts to reply within three weeks why action should not be taken. The ICT order said that this breach of privacy and engaging a judge amounted to interference with the proceedings and directed the British newspaper, which had claimed to be in possession of the emails and conversations, to keep his emails confidential.
The ICT order also noted that the Chairman would seek assistance from Ziauddin from time to time for judgments and orders at the other international crimes cases elsewhere in the world so that the tribunal could give a good order. ICT-1 chair Justice Huq’s communication records- via the Skype and email- with Mr. Ziauddin were hacked. And there after the Economist accessed the hacked records.
The Economist linked with the war criminals?
The Economist admits of accessing hacked the records: “The Economist has heard 17 hours of recorded telephone conversations and seen over 230 e-mails between the two men. “Then it reminds readers that “this material is confidential and we are bound by law and the British press’s code of conduct not to reveal such information except in matters of the most serious public interest.”
Then the newspaper reveals its claws: “These e-mails, if genuine, would indeed raise questions about the workings of the court and we are bound to investigate them as fully as we can. It was in the course of those investigations that we contacted the two men.” Mentioning that their investigation is on, the Economist reaffirms its stance on publishing the hacked records: “Once they are concluded and if we consider the allegations contained in them to have merit, we will publish them.”
The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; … or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.
Undoubtedly a newspaper or journalist can ask for ‘explanation’ as long as records and other proofs are possessed by it/him. A newspaper can publish obtained records for public interest- yes, you cannot raise any question on this. Does this mean the newspaper/reporter can get hold of the records by any means? Is it ethical or journalistic to seek explanation and/or threat anyone/institution on basis of records that are obtained by hacking?!
The Economist has not mentioned yet from where it got the hacked records. But a Bangladeshi website has noted that the records were available on some pro Jamayat-e-Islami Facebook group even before the publication or notification by the Economist. It would be worth to mention here that almost all of the War Criminals, that are being tried, are top Jamayat leaders.
The Economist has violated the code of conduct
Why has not the Economist published the hacked records yet? It has the answer for you: “we are bound by law and the British press’s code of conduct not to reveal such information except in matters of the most serious public interest.” Well well, I would like to draw your attention to the word Reveal. The newspaper lies here. In fact it can not even get hold of any hacked records according to the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The code was ratified by the British Press Complaints Commission in December 2011. What does the code say? In section 10- sub headed ‘Clandestine devices and subterfuge’ of the code states, “(1) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; … or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.” Yet the newspaper can access and/or publish records if, and only if, those are not accessible in any other means; and it must be proved that it has been done in the “public interest”.
The Economist is threatening with the cliché “public interest” phrase. And we must not forget the News of the World case- the top selling British tabloid that had to put an end in its publication because of hacking scandal. The News of the World itself was engaged in hacking phones of families of British service personnel killed in action. The Economist is not far away from that. It has acquired hacked records- from some undisclosed source- in addition to that it threatens to publish the hacked records.
Yes, the British newspapers are crossing the boundary of journalism ethics. That’s the reason we are not surprised when the British Judge Brian Leveson recommends to regulate the press “by an independent group supported by law and with the power to fine.” And to remind you- British Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament that he agrees with Leveson’s recommendations for a new, strong, independent press regulator.