Friday, June 6, 2014

Bangla Tribune - Re-defining the meaning of 'Exclusive Investigation'

The Bangla Tribune - the Bangla language website of the English language newspaper, The Dhaka Tribune - must be running very short of stories to write about.

Yesterday, on the front page of its website, it published a long article, under the tag ‘Exclusive’ about how its ‘investigation’ uncovered the fact that the documentary, The War Crimes File, broadcast in 1995 on Channel Four TV in the UK, was directed by a person called Howard Bradburn. The English translation of this article is set out at the end of this post

The article of course redefines the word ‘exclusive’ to mean ‘the completely obvious’ and the word ‘investigation’ to mean, ‘reading the credits of a publicly accessible film’. One does have to wonder quite what this is all about, since anyone who cared to read the credits of the documentary would have known who was the director of the documentary,

I think the government can certainly feel rest assured that, with this kind of ‘exclusive investigation’, at least the Bangla Tribune will not be the source of any ground breaking journalism anytime soon!

The article was such an ‘exclusive investigation’ that the publishers did not consider it appropriate to give the name of the writer in the byline! Perhaps Faisal Abdullah - stand up, take a bow - decided at the last minute, out of sheer embarrassment and shame, not to give his byline. One can only imagine.

The ‘story’! 
So what is the Bangla Tribune’s story? It is titled, 'Bergman is not the Director of the War Crimes Files.'

For those who don’t know, the War Crimes Files is a one hour documentary broadcast on British television in 1995 which alleged that three men, then living in the UK, were as members of the Jamaat-e-Islami or its student wing, involved in war crimes during the 1971 independence war of Bangladesh.

The Bangla Tribune article goes onto say that the credits at the end of the documentary show that Howard Bradburn is the ‘director’, and I am the ‘reporter’. The article adds that I failed to mention Bradburn’s name when I was interviewed on the BBC Bengali service and when I wrote an article for New Age about the research for the film. It also says that a number of websites state incorrectly that I am the Director of the film.

Yes, that is it guys – the extent of the exclusive investigation by Bangla Tribune.

In this slightest of slight articles, there is of course included – which is no doubt the only reason why Bangla Tribune decided to publish this absurd piece in the first place  - various nasty insinuations about me.

First that my role in the making of the film was not that significant;

Secondly that I have misled people into thinking that I was the director of the film, and failed to publicise Howard’s role as Director. 

And thirdly suggesting that my views about accountability for those who committed crimes during the 1971 war have changed entirely from the time when I made the film

My role in the film 
It is embarrassing that I have to respond to this nonsense - but since there will be people out there who may believe these nasty insinuations, I suppose it is best to set the record straight. 

First, what was my role in the making of the film? I describe a little about the background to the researching of the film in this article. Gita Sahgal (who became the producer of the film) and myself came up with the idea to make a film, and then over a nine month period, I was responsible for undertaking the research and investigation, and supervising a team of local journalists who worked with us. Howard Bradburn, the director was brought in after the journalism was completed to direct the filming, and to work on its editing. When the film won a Royal Television Society Award in London,  Twenty Twenty Television (the production company that made the film) asked myself and Gita to go up to collect the award.

There were of course a lot of significant roles played by people other than myself, Gita and Howard in the making this film – as the film credits make clear. These include the camera men Ranjan Palit and Mishuk Munir, the sound man Tim White, the editor Tony Robinson, and the Executive Producer Claudia Milne, and of course ten Bangladesh researchers.

Anyone can see the names of these people by looking at the end credits of the film – and of course the film is widely available in Bangladesh. Someone has put it up on YouTube, it gets broadcast on Desh TV quite regularly, it has been aired on BTV, and it is sold at some video shops in Dhaka, as well as at the Liberation War Museum. Nothing is secret or hidden.

There is of course nothing that I have ever written or ever said which could in any way suggest I have misled anyone about my role in the film. And for or all its nasty insinuations, the Bangla Tribune article can’t find one instance.

Howard Bradburn, the Director 
Secondly, there is my supposed failure not to mention Howard’s name. That is of course not true. Anyone who talked with my about the actual process of making of the film, rather than the researching of the documentary, would have heard me talk about Howard Bradburn. His role as director was very public, there was no secret about it. He did an excellent job. The ultimate product was a team effort.

The article points out that I did not mention Howard’s name when the BBC Bangla service did a profile interview about me. It is correct when asked at one point in the interview about how the film came about, I did not mention any other person’s name. Well, it would have been very odd had I mentioned the names of different people involved in the film - and I am sure if I had done so, the BBC would have edited it out. I was not asked, 'Who did you make the film with?', in which case I would have mentioned Howard's name. I was not collecting an award where I was supposed to thank people! 

The Bangla Tribune also said that I did not mention Howard’s name in an article I wrote for New Age. Again, it would have been rather odd if I had. This was an article about the research and investigation behind the film - how the journalism was put together. And, as I said, Howard was not involved in this part of the film-making.

Support for War crimes trials and accountability
The article contains a quote by Sharier Kabir – that appears unrelated to the rest of the article – stating that I had once ‘talked strongly on behalf of war crime trials’ but now my ‘position has changed.’

This is totally untrue. It is completely wrong to suggest that, since the making of the war crimes trial, I have changed my views about the necessity of holding trials of those alleged to have committed crimes during the 1971 war. Nowhere will Sharier or anyone else find in any of my writings or my public comments about the trials anything other that support for criminal accountability for crimes committed.

More to come?
Anyway, I think we can expect more slimy articles from the Bangla Tribune about me.

When Faisal Abdullah first e-mailed me with questions, he included, can you believe it, a whole lot of questions about my life 30 years ago! So, lets see what is next on the horizon

However, any more of these kinds of articles will simply act to discredit this news website.

The article ends by saying: 
'The documentary ‘War Crimes File’ which has now became a part of Bangladesh’s history could be viewed as an important document for the war crimes trial.' 
Yes, that is right. What Bangla Tribune appears not to want to acknowledge, however, is that I was the person who was in charge of the research and journalism, standing up the allegations against the three men, and asking the questions to interviewees throughout the filming. I suggest that they need to come to terms with that.


Below is a scratch translation of the article
Bergman is not the Director of War Crimes File!

The Bangla Tribune Report

David Bergman became a topic of discussion in Bangladesh by creating the documentary ‘War Crimes File’, which was published in the year 1995. It has been mentioned in many online sources that, David Bergman is the director of this documentary. It has been found by the investigation of The Bangla Tribune that, Howard Bradburn was the director of the documentary “War Crimes File” and David Bergman worked as a reporter in it. Was Bergman a director or reporter? This question comes up after seeing the information in his personal blog profile. Bergman mentioned in his personal blog that he was ‘involved’ with this documentary. He mentions in his profile that, (in English) “In 1995, I was involved in making the Royal Television Society award winning Channel Four documentary, the 'War Crimes File', a film about war crimes allegedly committed by three men during the 1971 War of Independence”

War Crimes File
Most of those who were involved in war crimes in the year 1771 were living in the United Kingdom. On this issue, with the help of London based channel Four and Twenty Twenty Television, the documentary ‘War Crimes File’ was made. The documentary, which was made by collecting different information against the accused war criminal Chowdhury Moinuddin, was telecasted on Channel Four on 3rd May 1995.  
During that time by the lead of Shaheed Janani (mother of martyrs) Jahanara Imam, the people of Bangladesh was becoming aware about war crimes. It is assumed that due to this reason the documentary ‘War Crimes File’ created a different feeling among the supporters of Liberation War. During that time David Bergman became a topic of discussion. He came to Bangladesh to create this documentary. He took help from the young journalists of that time to assist the research work.

Information on Director Bergman
David Bergman is identified as the director of the documentary in the online archive of the website ‘Genocide Bangladesh’ ( ,which is on the Liberation War of Bangladesh.

On such kind of misinformation Bergman told The Bangla Tribune that, ‘You can ask the authority of the website, why they published this information. I never said that I was the director of that documentary’. ‘Though Howard played a very important role in filming and editing the documentary, but he was not related to the research, investigation, publicity, and making of the documentary. Maybe for this reason his relation with the documentary didn’t get recognized. It is very sad, because his role was really important.

Why is there wrong information in such an important website that contains the information about the Liberation War? On this issue Salim Samad, the advisor of the website Bangladesh Genocide, informed The Bangla Tribune that, everyone tries to uphold the right information. It is an archive. Many people take information from it. In that case, such faults should not be left out. Shushanto Dash Gupta, one of the entrepreneurs of Bangladesh Genocide Website told Bangla Tribune that, we came to know from another source that David Bergman was the director of this documentary. If the information is wrong, then after proper verification it will soon be corrected. Not only the website Genocide Bangladesh, but also in Wikipedia; which is a popular online search engine; it is included in the biography of David Bergman that he was the director of the documentary “War Crimes File”. Also, in a video uploaded in YouTube by the ‘War crime BD’ channel, Bergman was mentioned to be the director.

In the end of the documentary ‘War Crimes File’ in the credit lines, along with the ones who were involved, it was included that Bergman worked as a reporter. And Howard Bradbun was mentioned as the director. Yet, the name Bradburn remains unknown to the people of Bangladesh. It was not heard that David Burgmen ever mentioned the name of the director anywhere.

Even, on 23rd December 2013, in an interview of BBC Bangla, Bergmen replied to a question related with the issue that, ‘once while talking to a friend, I came to know that someone from the East London Mosque was involved with the war crimes of Bangladesh. I did not know about Bangladesh that much ……… I began to gather information about the matter. After researching for a while I thought that it might turn out to be a good report. Right at that time I got a fund from Channel Four to make a documentary. That’s how I came to Bangladesh. I made this documentary with the help of the local Bangladeshi journalists. I was here for six months then.”

Even here, Bergman did not mention the name of Howard Bradburn.

Other than that, The Bangla Tribune made contact with Bergman through e-mail. In reply to a question in the e-mail, he sent a link of his own article “Tracking down the killers”, which was published in the Daily New Age on 8th November 2013. In that write up, though many people were mentioned, he did not mention Howard Bradburn anywhere.

But Bergman told The Bangla Tribune that,

“Howard Bradburn was the director of the film [‘The War Crimes File’], meaning that he was in charge of directing the filming and the editing of the film. Howard was at that time an experienced film maker, and I am sure he subsequently became an even more experienced one..

Then who is this Bradburn? When asked about Bradburn, Bergman kind of avoided the information and replied that, you can search Howards name in Google. You will find information about him and his films.

The journalist Julfikar Ali Manik was questioned about the misinformation in all the important sources regarding ‘War Crimes File’. He worked as an assistant along with the research team in this movie. According to Manik, the name that has been mentioned in the credit line is the actual director. Bergman worked as a reporter there. Other than, as far as I know, Bergman never claimed himself to be the director.

Manik also added that, it is their fault who introduced Bergman as the director of the documentary to the media.

On this issue the chairmen of Ghatak-Dalal Nirmul Committee Shahriar Kabir said that, Bergman was in the lead role behind making this documentary. Though he was a reporter his contribution cannot be denied. But later on he turned 180 degrees around.

Shahriar Kabir added more about Bergman that, ‘we took interview of Bergman in the documentary ‘War Crime 71’. Then he talked strongly on behalf of war crime trials. But now his position has changed.’

There was an allegation that, the outlook that he had on the trial and accountability of those who committed war crimes in 1971, has changed. Denying this, David Bergman informed that, he supported their accountability when the documentary was being made and he still does.

After the investigation of Bangla Tribune the wrong information became visible which was never taken for correction. The documentary ‘War Crimes File’ which now became a part of Bangladesh’s history could be marked as an important document for the war crimes trial. So, everyone feels the importance of presenting Howard Bradburn as the director of the documentary “War Crimes Files” in all the references and sources”

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