Qadaruddin Shishir

Guest Writer
Safa Kabir debate: how a fake meme turned into ‘information’ and source of ‘news’
This article is more than 10 months old

Safa Kabir debate: how a fake meme turned into 'information' and source of 'news'

Qadaruddin Shishir

Guest Writer

On June 9, several Bangladeshi media headlines read: “Body of Shahriar Kabir’s daughter Safa Kabir recovered”. Two such links are given here (1, 2)

Although the headlines in many other reputable media are not like this, it is said in the report that “Police have recovered the body of Safa Kabir, daughter of Shahriar Kabir, president of the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee.” Archive links to six such reports can be found here (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

At the same time, several news media reported (1, 2), Shahriar Kabir’s newly deceased daughter’s name is ‘Arpita Shahriar Mumu’ or ‘Arpita Kabir Mumu.’

And finally it was understood that the media who wrote ‘Arpita Shahriar Mumu’ or ‘Arpita Kabir Mumu’ as Shahriar Kabir’s daughter are correct. Because almost everyone who wrote ‘Safa Kabir’ has removed or corrected the reports one by one.

The question is: How did the mainstream media create such confusion of information? Its origins lie in an interview four years ago, a false meme and an online information war.

How A Meme Turned Into Information

On April 14, 2019, a fan sent a message to actress Safa Kabir during a live program on ABC Radio on the occasion of Pahela Baishakh, “Apu do you believe in the afterlife? If your life style….”

In response to this question, Safa Kabir said that he does not believe in the Hereafter, because she does not believe in what she does not see. The host then moved on to another topic, but the topic remained and grew on social media.

Safa Kabir came under fire for this comment in the comment section of the YouTube video and on social media. Two days later, she posted an apology on her verified Facebook page, Safa Kabir.

In the middle of that debate, a meme went viral. It shows: A poster with pictures of five persons and writing on each picture respectively: “Father Shahriar Kabir, Mother Khushi Kabir, Son John Kabir, Elder Daughter Saba Kabir, Younger Safa Kabir”.

Safa Kabir then reappeared on the ABC Radio programme, apologizing for the statement and stating that she is not the daughter of Shahriar Kabir or Khushi Kabir.

Actress Sohana Saba was used as the 4th person in the viral meme whose name was written as ‘Saba Kabir’. The actress made her statement by posting the fake meme on her Facebook profile on April 16, 2019.

In it, she called the meme “disgusting” and “ridiculous” and said she had no family ties to other people in the meme. It is also clear from his post that the other four people named are not related to each other.

In time, this meme spawned a variety of counter memes. For example, another poster published this Facebook post with the caption: “If Safa Kabir belongs to Shahriar Kabir, Khushi Kabir’s family, why exclude ‘Noor’ family?”

At the same time, an Islamic speaker named Maulana Shahidul Islam Siddiqui’s video of Waj went viral, where he gave a speech regarding the viral meme as ‘based on true facts’. In the video, he is seen sitting on the stage looking at something in his hand and saying “Father Shahriar Kabir, mother Khushi Kabir, son John Kabir, elder daughter Saba Kabir and younger daughter Safa Kabir” etc. He also criticized Safa Kabir’s speech on ABC radio on Pahela Boishakh. 

This waj of Maulana Shahidul adds a new dimension to the war. Many (see here and here) ‘trolled’ his statement and posted it on Facebook. Various slanderous posts calling Safa Kabir (and her alleged parents Shahriar Kabir/Khushi Kabir) ‘atheists’ (1, 2) also continued.

Impact Of Online Information War

How Shahriar Kabir’s dead child’s name became ‘Safa Kabir’ in the Bangladeshi media has no other explanation except that a ‘disinformation’ spread online by two sides in an information war has created such an impact in the society that it is in the form of ‘information’ among many, and especially “among the journalists” has been able to take place! And at some point it became the pages of the press and spread to the general public in the form of ‘information’.

The fact that false news or information is published in the media of Bangladesh has taken the form of an epidemic. Many of these false facts are regularly identified by various fact-checking organizations, but there is little sign of media awareness, which is very unfortunate.

The consequences of misinformation in the media can be dire for many in many cases. We see that in the case in question. After the news of the recovery of Safa Kabir’s body was published in the media, actress Safa Kabir came to her Facebook post and posted about her survival.

However, many did not believe it. Then the actress came on Facebook Live and told what kind of bad situation her family is in due to this news. Safa wants more awareness from the journalists and she repeatedly reassures the audience about his religious beliefs! She said that she is not an atheist and no one else should spread these words against her.

From these demands of Safa Kabir, it is clear how much stress she is going through and conventional journalism is also responsible for creating that occasion. What could be more sad for the press!

Qadaruddin Shishir

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