Like other mainstream media outlets, bdnews24.com also published the incident at the factory on Jun 27 last year amid the coronavirus crisis.
The bdnews24.com report was based on comments made by the district police, EPZ authorities and deputy commissioner before journalists. TV networks had also aired their remarks.
But the Evergreen authorities now allege that bdnews24.com published the report “conspiratorially to damage their business by defaming” them.
After the publication of the report, Evergreen started the case at the First Joint District Judge’s Court of Dhaka on Sept 9. The court took cognisance of the charges and issued a summons seeking bdnews24.com’s statement.
bdnews24.com came to know about the case after getting a copy of the order in the beginning of March this year.
The order states that Toufique Imrose Khalidi, editor-in-chief of bdnews24.com, appear in the court on Mar 14 or present his statement on the allegations and documents or evidence backing his claim through his lawyer or representative.
The Evergreen factory produces and exports wig at the EPZ. Its workers rampaged at the factory after demonstration on Jun 27 on allegation of layoff.
In the four hours of agitation, the protesters torched five covered vans, 10 motorcycles, and office documents and computers.
Three units of the Fire Service and Civil Defence brought the fire under control after three hours of efforts. Deputy Commissioner Md Hafizur Rahman Chowdhury later got a handle on the situation by talking to the agitated workers, who said they were protesting against layoffs that were in breach of rules laid down by Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority or BEPZA. No Evergreen official commented on the allegation at that time.
When asked for comments, Enamul Haque, general manager of Uttara EPZ, told journalists on that day that the issue would be resolved through discussion with the owner on the workers’ demands.
“This is the only company with problems in the EPZ. The others do everything following the BEPZA rules. There is a little problem here. I think it can be resolved through discussion,” he said.
He had also said the owner of the company spoke clearly about the issues at the factory to the workers. “He (owner) apologised and promised to resolve the issues,” said Haque.
Deputy Commissioner Chowdhury said he talked to the workers at the scene of the protest while the crews were douse the fire.
“The workers returned home after we calmed the situation. The owners promised us that they will meet the workers’ demands,” he said.
The bdnews24.com report on the Evergreen worker unrest was not based on its own investigation, but on the remarks made by agitated workers, district administration, the police and EPZ authorities.
The same statements of all the sides appeared in the reports published by the other media outlets. Then why bdnews24.com has been singled out for publishing the report “intentionally and conspiratorially” is not clear in the plea for the case.
The plea states: “That in the said news the defendant publish that the plaintiff does not pay the salary of the employees which is completely false and fabricated as the plaintiff has been paying salary with all dues/facilities of the employees regularly. The plaintiff also has been providing health support including sanitizer, medicine, mask, hand gloves etc to its employees regularly during covid-19 pandemic.”
But bdnews24.com in its report said, “The workers of Evergreen Factory BD Ltd allege that it often fires them in breach of BEPZA rules. The layoffs have increased amid the coronavirus crisis. To save money, the factory fires skilled workers and appoint them again. The authorities appoint the helpless fired workers afresh when they contact the factory so that the workers are paid less and deprived of due wages.”
“Their (workers’) allegation is that the company has cut Tk 1,000 from their salary citing purchase of hand sanitiser and soap to protect them from the coronavirus. In addition, the authorities paid the workers less by showing their overtime work less than how much they actually worked.”
It was Haque, GM of the EPZ, who said that Evergreen was the only factory having issues there while the others follow the BEPZA rules in every step.
But Evergreen authorities in their case claimed the bdnews24.com report caused them loss worth Tk 20 million per month.
bdnews24.com contacted Shamim Uddin, general manager of the Evergreen factory, to know why it has been targeted even though most of the mainstream media also ran the report.
Shamim declined commenting on the case and said the official handling the factory’s legal issues will contact it with their statement.
Md Jahangir Alam, assistant manager of the Evergreen factory, called bdnews24.com over phone several hours later. After hearing bdnews24.com’s query he said he would call again at 6pm after checking papers.
As he did not call back, bdnews24.com contacted him, but his phone was switched off.