In a world awash with disinformation, the role of a fact-checker becomes more than just an occupational duty—it evolves into a moral imperative. These individuals stand as the last line of defense in the battle against the erosion of truth, wielding their expertise to cut through the maze of falsehoods that pervade the digital landscape. But what happens when the guardian of facts turns out to be a Trojan horse? Qadaruddin Shishir, a fact-check editor with AFP in Bangladesh, finds himself at the center of a controversy that not only casts doubt on his own credibility but also threatens to undermine the very foundations of journalistic integrity.
This comes at a time when France, AFP’s home country, is grappling with its own set of challenges related to radical Islam. The non-Muslim French populace is increasingly alarmed by the rapid rise of a predominantly radical Muslim population. Jews and Christians in neighboring Germany are even fleeing the country, fearing retribution from radical Muslims. France itself has been scarred by the horrific jihadist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, where journalists and cartoonists were mercilessly killed. Amidst this volatile backdrop, it is both surprising and deeply concerning that AFP has chosen to extend patronage to Qadaruddin Shishir, a heavily radicalized Muslim from Bangladesh with proven ties to the terrorist organization Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir.
The most disconcerting revelation pertains to Shishir’s past. During his formative years at university, he was an active participant in Jamaat-e-Islami, an ultra-Islamist militant group in Bangladesh. This isn’t mere hearsay; it’s corroborated by multiple Facebook posts from Shishir, which were later deleted but have been documented.
Such affiliations are not to be taken lightly. They raise a red flag about his current role, given that extremist groups like Jamaat-e-Islami often engage in ideological indoctrination that can have a lasting impact.
While Shishir’s past raises eyebrows, his present activities are equally concerning. A recent controversy erupted when he posted on Facebook about the authenticity of Chandan Nandy, a writer for NENews. Shishir’s post was riddled with inconsistencies, casting doubt on his own credibility. He initially confirmed Nandy’s identity but later questioned the quality of his writing. Such flip-flopping not only confuses the public but also undermines the essence of fact-checking.
Adding another layer of complexity that Shishir is using his position to further political agendas. He has been obstructing the efforts of anti-militancy publications and promoting misinformation. These allegations gain credence when viewed in light of his past affiliations with extremist groups. It raises the question: Is Shishir using his position to further a hidden agenda?
Further mischiefs like intellectual theft and copyright violations make him suspect of many other unspoken crimes. Shishir plagiarized information and then claimed it as his own. Such actions are not just unethical; they are illegal and can have serious repercussions for both Shishir and the organization he represents, AFP.
While fact-checkers play a crucial role in today’s information landscape, it’s imperative to ensure that this power is wielded responsibly. As the boundaries between fact-checking and agenda-pushing become increasingly blurred, the responsibility falls on journalistic institutions to uphold the principles of integrity, transparency, and impartiality.
In a striking move that raised eyebrows across journalistic and political circles, Shishir took to Facebook to publish a provocative poster stating, “Government gone insane, now they want a judgement”. He followed this with an even more audacious claim: “Today Amar Desh will come up with a bombshell report on the trial of Mawlana Sayeedi”. The reference to Mawlana Sayeedi, also known as Mawlana Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, is particularly alarming. Sayeedi was not just an Islamist hardliner advocating for Shariah law and a caliphate in the region; he was also a convicted war criminal, during the Bangladesh Liberation War. He was awarded the death penalty by Bangladesh’s court.
Delwar Hossain’s ideologies were in line with the Pakistani regime, which had a history of suppressing the Bangalis in what was then East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Shishir’s bold public endorsement of a report on such a controversial figure raises serious questions about his journalistic integrity and potential biases.
During his college days, Shishir was not just an active participant in Jamaat-e-Islami but also a vocal supporter of its objectives. This was evident when he took to Facebook to publish a poster that openly mocked Bangladesh-India relations. Such a brazen act during his formative years not only reflects a blatant disregard for diplomatic sensitivities but also aligns with the values of Jamaat-e-Islami, which he has always stood by. These early indicators of personal bias raise serious questions about his subsequent objectivity and impartiality as a fact-checker, casting a long shadow over his journalistic integrity.
Certainly, let’s delve into a particularly contentious episode that further calls into question Shishir’s impartiality as a fact-checker. In December 2016, Shishir took to Facebook to express his vehement opposition to the closure of several media outlets, including Digant TV, Top News, and Sonar Bangla. While on the surface this may seem like a defense of free speech, the nature of these outlets paints a different picture. These platforms were notorious for propagating Islamist ideologies, advocating for a caliphate, endorsing Shariah Law, and most alarmingly, declaring Ahmadi Muslims as infidels or at least non-Muslims, echoing the stance of Pakistan.
Shishir’s Facebook post (later removed) read: “I was against the closure of my country. I was against, and am against the closure of Digant/Islamic TV/ Topnews, SonarBangla. I was and still am against the closure of my blog ‘Estishan’ ‘Muktmana’. As a result, I can easily take a stand against banning Shravan.” He further criticized those who had changed their stance on banning these outlets, challenging them to join him in demanding their reopening. This public stance not only raises questions about his journalistic ethics but also aligns closely with the values of Jamaat-e-Islami, which he has consistently supported.
Another intriguing aspect of Shishir’s ideological leanings can be gleaned from his old social media posts, where he openly expressed his admiration for Kazi Nazrul Islam. A photograph depicts Shishir warmly embracing a sculpture of Nazrul Islam, a figure often celebrated for his contributions to literature and music but who was, in essence, an Islamist under the veil of humanity and harmony.
Nazrul Islam penned numerous articles and poems that endorsed Islamist ideologies, a fact often overlooked even by Indian intellectuals. Shishir’s profound affection for such a complex figure adds another layer to the questions surrounding his own beliefs and their potential impact on his role as a fact-checker in French AFP.
In another revealing post, Shishir displayed overt anti-India sentiment while showing a contrasting stance towards China. Writing on Jamaat Shibir Network’s official page, he criticized Indian involvement in Bangladesh’s economic affairs, specifically targeting Indian officials’ attempts to influence the Dhaka Stock Exchange. Shishir wrote, “Modi’s brothers are bringing the border to Dhaka city for business! He wants to buy at a low price, if he doesn’t give it again, he’s retarded!!”
Interestingly, he seemed more amenable to the idea of China acquiring shares of the Dhaka Stock Exchange, a stance that aligns with Jamaat-e-Islami’s known animosity towards India. This post not only showcases Shishir’s skepticism towards India but also suggests that his viewpoints could be deeply influenced by his affiliations, thereby affecting his objectivity and impartiality as a fact-checker.
The revelations about Qadaruddin Shishir are a stark reminder of the need for vigilance in journalism. They highlight the importance of scrutinizing not just the information but also the individuals who are entrusted with the task of verifying it. As the debate rages on, one thing is clear: the need for transparent and responsible journalism has never been greater.
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