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Misleading Information on Facebook About Death Toll in Election-Related Violence

The 12th national parliamentary election in Bangladesh was held on January 7th. On the night before the election, i.e., starting from January 6th night, the Rumor Scanner Team observed various numbers of deaths due to clashes over polling station control being shared on social media.

Throughout January 7th, numerous posts claimed that clashes across the country between supporters of the Awami League’s ‘boat’ symbol candidates and supporters of independent Awami League candidates resulted in 25 deaths.

Online activist Pinaki Bhattacharya also claimed this in a live Facebook video, which was later removed (the video is available on Google Drive). Shortly after broadcasting the live video, he posted on his Facebook page, avoiding direct mention of 25 deaths, but instead claimed that ’25 wickets have fallen’.

Election

There were posts claiming 25 deaths. See here (archive), here (archive), here (archive), here (archive)। 

Some posts claimed the death toll to be 28. See here (archive), here (archive)।

Our team also found posts claiming 45 deaths. See here (archive). 

On January 8th, some Facebook posts suggested the number had increased to 70. See related posts here (archive), here (archive), here (archive). 

In essence, death toll claims ranging from 25 to 70 circulated on Facebook regarding election-related violence and polling station control.

Fact Check

The Rumor Scanner Team’s investigation revealed that claims of 25, 28, 45, or 70 deaths in election-related violence, including polling station control, are inaccurate. From the start of the election campaign on December 18th until January 12th, there were nine deaths, with two occurring on election day.

A January 6th report on BBC News Bangla stated that 156 electoral conflicts and violence incidents occurred from December 18th until January 5th (the campaign’s end), resulting in three deaths.

The Human Rights and Cultural Foundation, mentioned in a Voice of America Bangla report, provided similar information.

The national media outlet Prothom Alo also concurred, the first election campaign-related death happened on December 23rd in Kalkini, Madaripur, where a supporter of an independent candidate was killed. Additionally, on January 3rd in Munshiganj Sadar Upazila, a ‘boat’ symbol supporter was shot dead, and a worker of an independent candidate died from injuries in Mathbaria, Pirojpur. However, Pirojpur’s Superintendent of Police, Muhammad Shariful Islam, stated that the incident stemmed from prior enmity.

Similar death tolls were reported in the media (see reports on Channel24, Shomoyer Alo, and Sangbad).

Furthermore, on January 6th, a village policeman guarding a polling station in Baliakandi, Rajbari, was found dead. The Officer-in-Charge of Baliakandi Police Station, Alamgir Hossain, said the death appeared to be a strangulation case. The body was sent to Rajbari morgue for autopsy, and an investigation is ongoing.

Despite several violent incidents on that day, including arson at polling stations, no additional deaths were reported.

Media also reported two deaths due to violence on election day (1, 2, 3)—one in Munshiganj and another in Cumilla, where an individual died after a fall during a dispute involving ‘eagle’ symbol supporters.

Furthermore, reports have surfaced in the media about two individuals being killed in attacks during post-election victory parades in Madaripur and Netrokona. In addition, there has been an incident of one individual dying in Jhalakathi.

The Human Rights and Cultural Foundation’s annual report, published on December 31, 2023, stated that there were a total of 10 deaths due to election-related violence up to that date in 2023.

Bottom Line

The 12th national parliamentary election in Bangladesh, held on January 7th, was marked by various incidents of violence both during and after the election campaign, which began in December. From the night of January 6th, social media was awash with varying death tolls (25, 28, 45, 70) attributed to election-related violence and clashes. However, the Rumor Scanner Team’s investigation found these numbers to be inaccurate. Three people died due to violence from the start of the campaign to its conclusion. Additionally, one person died on the day before the election, two on the day of the election, and three from the day after the election until January 12th, bringing the total number of deaths to nine. The Human Rights and Cultural Foundation also reported a total of 10 deaths due to election-related violence in 2023. Hence, the death toll due to election-related violence did not reach 25 or any higher figure.

Notably, in the 11th national parliamentary election in 2018, there were 22 deaths over 21 days from the start of the official campaign to the end of the election, with 17 of these occurring on the day of voting.

Thus, while nine people died in violence related to the twelfth national parliamentary election, various inaccurate death tolls were circulated on Facebook, which is misleading.

Sources

RS Team
Rumor Scanner Fact-Check Team
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