TORONTO - Sometimes we are too cavalier as individuals and as a collective – we “take too many things for granted”.
I plead guilty to my own charge.
One of the reasons (an important one at that) we can cite for the success of our progressive, free market, rule of law, democratic society is the presence of a free press/media.
It can hold “noblesse” – those fortunate enough to be in positions of wealth power and influence - to account.
Each scrutiny, critique, expose or the occasional “tap on the back” should serve as a reminder that societies are built with gradual steps and on-going examinations of collective conscience through which we develop social values that define us. We need to “get out of our cocoon”.
The National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, which the Corriere Canadese recently joined, would seem to provide such opportunities.
Its president, Thomas Saras, insists on having informative seminars on matters of national interest at each of the monthly meetings.
Monday’s session hosted the Canadian Human Rights International Organization (CHRIO) and the Peace and Justice Alliance (PJA). Members from fifty third language periodicals, electronic and digital outlets were given an opportunity to be a part of an introduction to socio-political conditions in Bangladesh.
It was a plea for help to the Free Press in Canada to engage our federal authorities in the exercise of our not inconsiderable International weight to right the many governmental wrongs in an impoverished, overcrowded nation. Bangladesh, with its 174 million inhabitants is a source nation for an increasing number of immigrants to Canada.
It is not difficult to comprehend the reasons.
According to the CHRIO and PJA, between 2009 and 2017, the current regime, after assuming power, initiated a series of Constitutional amendments designed to permit it control of government indefinitely.
To assert its power, the regime embarked on a systematic violation of human rights and freedoms, incarceration of opposition party members, activists, journalists and representatives of civil society organizations.
The abuses, as stated by the CHRIO and PJA, would seem to have reached epidemic proportions: 574 deaths of detainees “while in police custody”, a further 349 while imprisoned by a corrupted judicial system, 255 abductions by partisan “security forces”, 306 cases of “enforced disappearance”, 540 extra judicial deaths and secret killings (250 of them in crossfire situations).
There is no evidence of investigations following these occurrences, or indeed in any “anti-militant drives” by enforcement agencies, which are all too frequently conveniently are justified by an “anti drug” campaign.
A veritable “arrest business” has developed as part of an extortion and intimidation racket.
Since February 2018, Media reports suggest that 15,000 opposition and civil rights activists have been detained ahead of the upcoming general election.
In Canada, a country not immune to the arrogant oppressive tendencies of those who aspire to hold and wield power, we face “libel chill” tactics to silence critical press and media.
A Big difference.
Can Canada do something?
If there is a will, the possibilities are limitless, from sanctions, to funding neutral third party observers for the elections, to pressuring the United Nations and other international bodies with the goal of causing an end to these oppressive measures.
It may seem “a little thing” but the re-establishment of freedom of speech, of assembly for the people and the Press is a cause that serves everyone’s interests.