A UK journalist has come under heat for undermining the severity of the 1971 Independence War involving Bangladesh and neighboring country Pakistan.
On Tuesday 2, 49-year-old David Bergman—who has lived in the country for 10 years—was found guilty for challenging the official death count, which was recorded as three million.
In 2011, the award-winning newspaper reporter published a blog post that challenged the accuracy of Bangladesh’s death toll. He suggested that the amount of causalities sustained during that time might have been much lower in numbers.
This proposition caused uproar from the general public, especially the International Crimes Tribunal domestic court who wanted him investigated for defamation.
Bergman soon found himself shamed for even questioning an event that deeply affected so many lives.
At a court hearing in the capital of Dhaka, Judge Obaidul Hassan presented Bergman with two options: pay a fine of 5,000 taka ($65) or face imprisonment for a week.
The verdict against Bergman shined light on just how supportive the country is when it pertains to free speech. Most of all, it revealed just how sensitive Bangladesh is to preserving their historical truth.
Judge Hassan based his ruling on the notion that freedom of expression and the liberty to voice new ideas should always be done with good intentions and with consideration of public interest.
“David Bergman neither has good faith nor an issue of public interest," notes Judge Hassan.
He later stated that the reporter’s outlook on the war was illogical and should be left for the government to investigate.
Bergman has stated that it would be nearly impossible for native journalists to speak on matters regarding governmental matters without facing some sort of persecution.
As a human rights activist and investigative journalist for the region’s English-based newspaper New Age, Bergman has conducted research and composed numerous articles focused on the aspects of Bangladesh’s political arena.
Never has he had to face such opposition from the public.
Bergman’s attorney Mustafizur Rahman stands behind his client’s right to freedom of expression—even if that means questioning unconvincing historical data.
Rahman says Bergman properly analyzed the evidence in a constructive manner without seeking to intentionally blemish statistics that were already established.
“It was our submission before the tribunal that the laws of Bangladesh permit constructive criticism of court orders and proceedings in a restrained language by a person having knowledge of its affairs,” said Rahman.
According to Rahman, Bergman was never against the International Crimes Tribunal.
Since 1995, Bergman has been bringing justice to Bangladesh by exposing war criminals that retreated to the UK. Over the years, he has proven how passionate he has always been about the subject.
While the people of Bangladesh strongly believe the figures to be factual, critics have predicted that the estimated death toll must have been somewhere in the thousands.
Additionally, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continues to demand that all perpetrators of the gruesome war be brought to justice.
However, individual researchers claim that Bangladesh militants were behind most of the killings and were partially to blame for the war death rate.