State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said the Awami League government did never engage any lobbyist in its last three tenures but engaged a company purely on media front in 2015 to help the world know Bangladesh based on facts and counter propaganda against the country and its people.
“We want to make it clear the Awami League government in its last three tenures didn’t engage any lobbyists. What we did is purely media-related print-media targeted,” said the State Minister.
He talked to a small group of reporters as some of the journalists approached him to know more about his statement he made in Parliament on Monday.
The State Minister said Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) spent at least US$ 3.75 million on lobbyists and shared relevant documents with the media which are also available in public domain.
Shahriar mentioned fact-based stories on women empowerment, climate change, poverty alleviation and Rohingya crisis that appeared in the international mainstream media in the last four-five years.
The State Minister said Bangladesh also countered with facts when there is any negative perception in the global media and when someone writes something negative about Bangladesh and its people deliberately.
“We engaged the PR company as in most cases rejoinders aren’t published with due importance which is a common practice at home and abroad,” he said, adding that it is not a lobbyist firm.
Shahriar said the government will do only those things which are “judiciously correct” and acceptable to the people of the country.
The State Minister said some media outlets, being operated from foreign lands, are acting as spokespersons of BNP-Jamaat, and they are pointing fingers against Bangladesh.
He said they have so far eight agreements in hand and at least three agreements show BNP’s central office address.
One of the agreements was signed with Blue Strategies, LLC in Washington for a period - September 2018 to May 2020, Shahriar said.
He said they will forward these documents related to eight agreements to the Bangladesh Bank governor to check how BNP sent that huge amount of money abroad.
Shahriar also said they can share those documents with the Election Commission through relevant Bangladesh Missions abroad and also from here if they want as every year political parties show their incomes and expenditures.
Responding to a question, the State Minister said BNP and Jamaat are two sides of the same coin and mentioned that they found Jamaat’s names in the contents of four documents.
“I’m sure there are more beyond these agreements,” he said, suggesting journalists to do investigative journalism.
The State Minister said there is nothing wrong in engaging a lobbyist but it is not good to hide the fact and act against the interest of Bangladesh and its people.
Asked whether he sees it as a defeat of the government's diplomacy against lobbyists, he said, “We don’t see it as a defeat against lobbyists using dirty money against our diplomacy.”
Responding to a question on RAB, he said the government remains engaged with the US and there will be an exchange of high-level visits soon. “I don’t want to elaborate. We hope there’ll be a solution to the problem.”
He hoped that they would bring a positive outcome through engaging with the US directly without engaging any lobbyists. “We do believe it. We don’t have an immediate plan to appoint a lobbyist firm.”
Shahriar said they do not believe in pursuing political agenda using that route where cash is involved.