Qadaruddin Shishir

Guest Writer
Prothom Alo publishes incorrect information and sources regarding the IMF
This article is more than 1 year old

Prothom Alo publishes incorrect information and sources regarding the IMF

Qadaruddin Shishir

Guest Writer

Last Sunday, on January 15th, Prothom Alo published an online report titled “Statement during DMD’s visit: Economy on the brink of crisis: IMF” This very report was also published in their print version.

The first two paragraphs of the report published on the newspaper’s website are presented below:

“Bangladesh’s economy is on the brink of a crisis, due to trade deficits, surging energy costs and inflation, and depleting foreign exchange reserves. However, prior to the global pandemic and the subsequent economic recession, Bangladesh boasted a rapidly growing economy.

These observations were made in the “Foreign Brief” section of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Saturday, during the visit of the IMF’s Deputy Managing Director, Antoinette Monsio Sayeh, to Dhaka. Yesterday afternoon marked the arrival of the IMF’s DMD in Bangladesh. He will depart Dhaka on January 18 after a five-day stay.

According to the Prothom Alo report, the information mentioned earlier was attributed to the International Monetary Fund and purportedly published in the IMF’s “Foreign Brief” section.

However, upon thorough examination, it was not found that the IMF’s official website (www.imf.org) contains a specific tab or section called ‘Foreign Brief.’ A Google search did yield a website named foreignbrief.com, where a report was discovered that aligns with the statement mentioned in Prothom Alo’s report.

The statement quoted in the opening paragraph of Prothom Alo’s report appears to be sourced from the report found on the ‘Foreign Brief’ website, and it reads as follows:

“The Bangladesh economy was one of the fastest growing in the world before the pandemic and subsequent global economic downturn. Now, its economy is bordering on crisis as trade deficits, rising fuel costs, growing inflation, and shrinking foreign currency reserves.”

The information presented in the Prothom Alo report, which refers to the IMF’s statement or review in the “Foreign Brief” section, does not seem to be mentioned in the report published by Foreign Brief itself. Instead, the analysis provided serves as context for the visit of the IMF’s Deputy Managing Director, as well as citing Reuters and an older article from their own publication, which is also linked within the piece.

On January 16, the IMF issued a press release on their website regarding the visit of Deputy Managing Director Antoinette Monsio Sayeh to Bangladesh. However, apart from this press release, there doesn’t appear to be any further report available on the IMF’s website regarding her current visit to Bangladesh.

The title of the Prothom Alo article seems to have been derived from a section of the ‘Foreign Brief’ report titled “Now, its economy is bordering on crisis…” However, it should be noted that this wording represents the reporting language of Foreign Brief and not a direct statement from the IMF. Foreign Brief included this item in their daily brief section titled “IMF Official Visits Bangladesh,” authored by Wescott Yeaw, who serves as a copyeditor and analyst for Foreign Brief.

It is worth mentioning that the Foreign Brief website does not claim to be a part of the IMF in its ‘About’ section. Instead, Foreign Brief describes itself as an open source of geopolitical information with a primary focus on the Indo-Pacific region.

Details found on their website are given below:

“Foreign Brief is an industry-leading source of open source geopolitical intelligence focused first on the Indo-Pacific. We help our customers make sense of the world. Like a translator, our mission is to decipher complex global events in a coherent and contextualized way.”

They also wrote: “Foreign Brief products cover a wide array of timelines, including Daily Briefs, weekly Radar Sweep event summaries, long-term Insight Reports and topical Deep Dives.”

The “Terms of Use” page on the website indicates that it is owned by a private business company called “Foreign Brief Pty Ltd.” The website itself made its debut in 2015, the same year their Twitter account was launched, which currently has over 1500 followers.

Despite conducting a keyword search on both the IMF website and Google, no evidence was found to suggest any association between the website and the IMF.

Prothom Alo’s report misrepresents the statement by attributing it to the IMF and publishing it as if it were an official part of the IMF’s communication.

Instances of publishing inaccurate news without proper verification from online sources are unfortunately observed in the mainstream media of Bangladesh. Similar incidents occurred during the last football World Cup, where fake news was spread. Analysis has revealed that these instances of false information appearing in the media often stem from a failure to adequately verify the original source of information found online.

Qadaruddin Shishir

Qadruddin Shishir is a renowned factchecker in Bangladesh. He’s currently working as Bangladesh editor for AFP Factcheck.