Govt’s rejoinder fails to make print version of The Economist

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

The Economist is not very popular right now in Bangladesh.


The government’s rejoinder to an article published in The Economist has been put up in the blog section of the influential global publication’s website.


Contrary to reports in some sections of the local media, the rejoinder has not been printed in the latest issue of the London-based magazine (although it describes itself as a “newspaper”), which hit newsstands on Saturday, nor has The Economist “addressed” any of Dhaka’s concerns by responding to the rejoinder in any form.


It has merely posted the rejoinder in its Banyan blog, which is described as a webpage for its Asia correspondents to provide comment and analysis on Asia’s political and cultural landscape, and doesn’t carry the same legal liabilities as the print version.


Adam Roberts, The Economist’s South Asia bureau chief, confirmed to Dhaka Courier/UNB on Saturday that the rejoinder was only received after this week’s print version had already “gone to press”.


Mr Roberts said whether the rejoinder gets published in next week’s print version is “a decision for London”, a reference to The Economist’s editorial headquarters in the UK capital.


Publication in the print version will also depend on “what other letters need publishing”, according to Mr Roberts, who we can reveal (in the absence of a byline) was the author of the article “Embraceable you”, published in the July 30, 2011 issue of The Economist, and which has drawn the Awami League’s ire for undermining its election victory in 2008; its warm relations with neighbouring India; as well as its performance in government.


Mr Roberts was in Dhaka to coincide with Sonia Gandhi’s visit on July 24, during which he also attended “a bit” of the autism conference Mrs Gandhi was here for.


Following his visit, and publication of the said article, Mr Roberts also authored a post on The Economist website’s Asian blog (where the government’s rejoinder has gone up) that presented a cynical view of the country 40 years on from gaining independence.


Among other things, the blog post, titled “Misusing the past” (dated August 4, 2011) criticised the government’s war crimes trial process, the smell of “emerging autocracy”, and some of the changes entailed in the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, such as the inherent inconsistency in retaining Islam as the state religion while the state is also secular, and the reinstatement of Socialism.


The Economist is renowned for being staunchly pro-Capitalism in terms of its editorial stance, and has never been shy of taking a stance against Socialist governments worldwide, ranging from the Hugo Chavez administration in Venezuela to the current Spanish government.


But Mr Roberts maintains that more than the reinstatement of Socialism (which he doesn’t expect to be “put into practice”), it was the amendment’s abolishment of the caretaker government provision for arranging elections that “struck” him more.

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