The twelfth national parliamentary election in Bangladesh took place on January 7th. Leading up to the scheduled date, the election was surrounded by various events and incidents. Some notable examples include the massive rally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) on October 28th, the demand for adherence to constitutional principles by the ruling government, and announcements of military and foreign intervention in the election. Each of these events was accompanied by a proliferation of false or misleading information.
In the past three months, Newschecker-Bangladesh has debunked over 300 pieces of false information, the majority of which were related to political events and personalities. Of these, five specific falsehoods stood out, all of which centered around political figures and incidents.
Resignation of Sheikh Hasina:
In the last few months, Sheikh Hasina, the head of Awami League government, has been the target of the most widespread disinformation.
Of particular note, false information has circulated about her resignation from the position of Prime Minister. At times, she has been falsely claimed to have announced her resignation herself, and at other times to have resigned under foreign pressure, or military pressure.
Some examples of these videos can be found here, here, here, and here. These videos make various claims, such as Sheikh Hasina resigning under military orders, resigning at the behest of the United States, or sometimes, it is said that the Prime Minister herself is voluntarily stepping down.
Upon investigation, it has been found that none of these claims have any basis in reality. The videos use images or footage of different individuals, including the head of the military and the President of the United States, without any actual connection to the false claims. Sometimes, information is manipulated using the Prothom Alo’s photo archive.
Misinformation surrounding Mirza Fakhrul and Mirza Abbas’ Bail:
In October, following the grand rally of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in Paltan, prominent BNP leaders Mirza Fakhrul and Mirza Abbas, among others, were arrested. On October 29, the day after the BNP grand rally, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the BNP’s Secretary-General, was arrested in a case related to an attack on the Chief Justice’s residence. Just two days later, another BNP leader, Mirza Abbas, was also arrested in connection with the same case. Following their arrests, numerous false videos surfaced on TikTok, alleging their involvement in various activities. Watch these videos here, here, and here.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that the videos used clips from a year ago. In December 2022, both leaders were arrested again, and their bail was granted after 32 days. For more details on this, you can refer to the report by News Check Bangladesh here – Mirza Fakhrul and Abbas’ bail sparks gossip on social media.
Misinformation regarding caretaker government:
One of the most contentious issues in the run-up to the twelfth national parliamentary election was whether a caretaker government would be established. Traditionally, during the election period, the caretaker government is responsible for governance. However, in 2011, a bill was passed in parliament overturning this practice. Opposition parties frequently protested against the reinstatement of this form of government. In this context, various rumors have circulated on social media regarding the caretaker government.
At times, it has been claimed that Dr. Muhammad Yunus is being appointed as the head of the caretaker government, or that the caretaker government is being reinstated under pressure from the United States. There have also been instances of spreading rumors linking the military to the establishment of a caretaker government. To learn more about this, you can read the fact-checking stories by Newschecker-Bangladesh here, here, here, here & here।
Foreign Sanctions on Bangladesh:
In addition to the other issues that arose during the election, there were widespread rumors and misinformation about foreign states and organizations imposing sanctions on Bangladesh. The topic of sanctions gained traction in 2021 when the United States imposed sanctions on the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Discussions about sanctions intensified after the visa sanctions were imposed in May of the same year. Numerous videos on social media have spread rumors that implicate the United States, the United Nations, and even the Bangladesh military in sanctions-related matters.
While there are international discussions about Bangladesh’s political situation and democracy, there are currently no sanctions specifically against RAB or visa sanctions beyond the discussions. Even the spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, Matthew Miller, has clarified in regular press conferences that the United States does not discuss sanctions before imposing them. For a fact-checking story on the rumors surrounding sanctions, you can check here: No new sanctions have been imposed on Bangladesh by the United States & Social Media Erupts With Multiple Fake Sanctions News.
Allegations Against the Bangladesh Army:
During the election period, various rumors and misinformation have circulated, accusing the Bangladesh Army of different things at different times. Some of the rumors include allegations of sanctions by the United Nations and the United States against the army, claims of a transfer of power from Sheikh Hasina’s government to the military, and even accusations that the army has taken over the responsibilities of the Election Commission and the governance of a theoretical technocratic government.
Investigation revealed that many of these viral videos lack a credible basis and are often fabricated. Moreover, a specific rumor that surfaced in December claimed that 141 army personnel had submitted a fabricated report regarding the election details. A fact-checking report on this particular issue is available here.
It is important to note that the Bangladesh Army has not given any interviews or provided any video clips related to these allegations. Fact-checking reports from Newschecker-Bangladesh provide detailed insights into the accuracy of these claims.
During the election season, TikTok has been a significant platform for spreading false information, particularly focusing on events and individuals mentioned earlier. False rumors and misleading content have been shared extensively, with some targeting opposition political figures such as Khaleda Zia’s death, Tareq Rahman’s return to the country, and various baseless allegations against multiple leaders of the opposition party, BNP.
This surge in misinformation on TikTok is a concerning trend, and it is crucial for users to critically evaluate the content they encounter on social media platforms, seeking reliable sources for accurate information.
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