US ambassador in Bangladesh, Peter Haas while talking to Channel-24, a satellite-based private television channel in the country has said, the Biden administration will include journalists in its visa ban policy soon.
Commenting on this announcement of the US ambassador, seeking anonymity a senior journalist said, “Joe Biden and members of his administration has already earned infame by restricting freedom of expression and adopting extreme repressive policies targeting journalists in the United States. Now it seems they are planning to internationalize their evil agenda of gauging freedom of press by using this draconian visa policy. Through this, Joe Biden and his administration have evidently proved, they neither believe in democracy nor in freedom of expression. While America has turned into a hegemonic monster, Joe Biden now can be branded as neo-Hitler”.
Meanwhile, following September 22 announcement of the US State Department, several online portals have started spreading rumor centering visa restrictions.
Talking to reporters, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said he did not know anything about Bangladeshis facing US visa restrictions.
“They [US] declared visa policy and we heard that. They did not inform us through any letter … We are yet to know about those who have been banned [under the policy]”.
He said, “It is a matter for the US whom they will allow to enter the country. We have nothing to say in this regard”.
Meanwhile, talking to Al Jazeera, Bangladesh foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh was not “bothered” by the US visa curbs on unnamed Dhaka officials for undermining the election process as part of Washington’s push for free and fair general elections slated to be held early next year.
“As a global power, they, of course, can exercise power over others but we are not bothered because we know how to hold an acceptable election”, he said, echoing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s assertion that her government is capable of conducting free and fair elections.
It may be mentioned here that, from September 22, 2023, US government has started taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.
While the US State Department has categorically stated that it does not provide list of individuals restricted under visa policy, Ali Riaz, Professor of Politics and Government Department of Illinois State University thinks otherwise. Talking to a vernacular tabloid daily, Professor Riaz said, that the United States has given the Bangladesh government a list of individuals who have fallen under visa restrictions. He said, “The government knows how many people have been banned” (from getting US visa).
Dr Riaz further said that “the United States wants a free, fair and inclusive election in Bangladesh [the United States has never demanded holding of an inclusive election]. The reality of Bangladesh is that there are two major political parties. If one is omitted, it is not a participatory election.
“An election was held in February 1996 under the BNP government where Awami League did not participate. It was not a participatory election. Similarly, we will not call the 2014 elections participatory. At the same time, only being participatory is not the real thing. Right to vote has to be ensured”.
He said, although the US State Department announced enforcement of visa policy from September 22, 2023, it actually has started it since May 24, 2023.
In a press release issued by the US Department of State, Matthew Miller said:
Today, the Department of State is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. These individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition. The United States is committed to supporting free and fair elections in Bangladesh that are carried out in a peaceful manner.
These persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States. Additional persons found to have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh may also be found ineligible for US visas under this policy in the future. This includes current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of opposition and ruling political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services.
Our actions today reflect the continued commitment of the United States to supporting Bangladesh’s goal of peacefully holding free and fair national elections, and to support those seeking to advance democracy globally.
Earlier on May 24, 2023, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is a statement said:
Today, I am announcing a new visa policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) (“3C”) of the Immigration and Nationality Act to support Bangladesh’s goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections. Under this policy, the United States will be able to restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh. This includes current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of pro-government and opposition political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services. The United States notified the Bangladeshi government of this decision on May 3, 2023.
Actions that undermine the democratic election process include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from disseminating their views.
The holding of free and fair elections is the responsibility of everyone—voters, political parties, the government, the security forces, civil society, and the media. I am announcing this policy to lend our support to all those seeking to advance democracy in Bangladesh.
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