A video has emerged showing that the two journalists, sued under the Digital Security Act for publishing “false” information, in fact filed their reports based on the announcement of the returning officer of Khulna-1.
Announcing the results around 9:00pm on Sunday, Khulna Deputy Commissioner Helal Hossain, also the RO, said 2,53,669 votes went to “boat” and 28,170 votes to “sheaf of paddy,” according to the footage obtained by Germany's public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle.
Khulna-1 constituency has 2,59,420 votes in total. But the votes obtained by the AL and BNP candidates, as announced by the RO, stood at 2,81,839, which is 22,419 higher than the total votes.
However, when journalists pointed out the mismatch, the RO looked confused. He then went on to announce results of other constituencies.
The RO made a second announcement around an hour later when he gave revised numbers for Khulna-1, according to four journalists, including The Daily Star's Khulna correspondent.
According to the revised tally, 1,72,059 votes went to “boat” and 28,637 votes to “sheaf of paddy,” shows the DW video, which The Daily Star could not independently verify.
By this time, however, Dhaka Tribune published the report based on the first announcement, but later took the news down.
Manab Zamin published the report in the print version of its second edition on December 31. On January 1, the paper published the corrected results.
Then on the night of January 1, Batiaghata Upazila Nirbahi Officer Debashish Chowdhury, also the assistant returning officer of the constituency, filed a case against two journalists of the publications for publishing “false” reports.
Dhaka Tribune's Khulna correspondent Hedait Hossain Molla was arrested the next day and was placed on three days' remand. He was released on bail after he fell sick during interrogation.
The other accused is Rashidul Islam, staff reporter of Manab Zamin, is now in hiding, his colleagues said.
Contacted yesterday, RO Helal Hossain said their control room had no knowledge of making any mistake in the announcement of Khulna-1 results.
Asked about the footage obtained by the DW, he said, “I have not seen the video.”
Asked to comment on the initial confusion about the number of votes, Election Commission Secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed said, “It's a matter for the returning office. You should talk to him.”
About the case against the two journalists, he said the reporters should have crosschecked before publishing the report.
“They published the news intentionally,” he alleged.