WASHINGTON DC, Aug 11, 2005 | ISSN: 1684-2057 | www.satribune.com

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FM Natwar Singh delivers a letter to PM Khaleda Zia in Dhaka: Below, A protest

South Asia Tribune Story Echoes in Dhaka During Natwar Singh Visit

By Mizan Rahman

DHAKA, August 11: Journalists and Government officials in Bangladesh have expressed surprise over newspaper reports here that Indian intelligence agencies offer “handsome money” to journalists to write articles against Bangladesh, and two other neighboring countries.

The newspapers carried a report of an Indian journalist on the day Indian External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh left Dhaka for Delhi at the end of three-day ‘goodwill’ visit claiming to have broken the deadlock and dispelling the mistrust" between the two neighboring countries in their bilateral relations.

The New Nation of Bangladesh carried the entire South Asia Tribune story written by Arun Rajnath on August 6. Click to View

"This visit can be called fruitful; we have re-established the contact at the highest level in the spirit of cordiality, goodwill and friendship," Natwar Singh told journalists at Zia International Airport prior to his departure. Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan was present at the airport to see off his Indian counterpart.

The newspapers quoted Arun Rajnath, New Delhi correspondent of the Washington-based online newspaper South Asian Tribune, as reporting that he was offered Rs10,000 per month to write a story against Bangladesh, Pakistan or Nepal.

Rajnath’s revelation was published in a special report of the newspaper headlined ‘Indian Officials Harassing South Asia Tribune New Delhi Correspondent’ on July 27.

The report, which detailed description of the Indian intelligence agencies’ clout among Indian journalists, captures glimpses of harassment of journalists who refuse to comply with official directives.

After refusing to be on the payroll of an intelligence agency, Rajnath, who writes on the Indian army and Kashmir, was refused accreditation by the External Affairs Ministry, and he became the target of frequent intimidating phone calls from intelligence men.

The correspondent claimed that many top Indian journalists covering news relating to ministries of external affairs, home, and defence were on the payroll of the security agencies or the ministries concerned, and regularly receive “handsome compensation packages”.

Commenting on the report, a Bangladeshi intelligence expert said they have reports that not only Indian journalists, but also a number of Bangladeshi writers are on the payroll of Indian sources.

Mentioning a lack of resources and motivation on the part of Bangladesh’s intelligence agencies, he said, “very little can be done in the existing situation”.

It may be mentioned here that a high profile civil society forum of India yesterday observed that a number of issues between Dhaka and Delhi are negatively portrayed and misinterpreted in the Bangladesh media. The forum held that a free trade agreement between the two countries would be beneficial for Bangladesh.

The forum of Indian parliamentarians, former bureaucrats and economists felt that Bangladesh’s position in bilateral trade with the neighbor will be stronger if there is a free trade agreement and an increased level of Indian investment in Bangladesh.

“Some issues including bilateral trade gap between India and Bangladesh are negatively focused in the media,” Deb Mukherjee, leader of the forum, told journalists. The Center for Policy Dialogue of Bangladesh and the India International Center, a Delhi based organization jointly organized the dialogue focusing on trade and commerce.

This report was published in the Gulf Times, Doha, Qatar.

Click to View Original Report

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