US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas has said it is not about the numbers but about the message that they are sending by imposing visa restrictions, and said members of the media might be included.
"We are applying the policy in a balanced way against anyone regardless of whether they are pro-government, whether they are in the opposition, or whether they are law enforcement, whether they are in the judiciary, whether it's the media. But it is based on behaviour. It's not based on anything else but their actions," US Ambassador to Bangladesh Peter Haas told Channel 24 during his visit to the private television station.
"It's not about the numbers, it's about the message that we are sending," Haas said.
The ambassador's mention of the media raised eyebrows, since neither US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when he announced the policy in May nor State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller when he announced its implementation from Friday mentioned the media. Also Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu, when he has spoken about the policy, never mentioned members of the media might come under its purview.
Blinken's original statement mentioned "current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of pro-government and opposition political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services."
It remains to be seen whether this signals an expansion of the visa policy's potential net.
The United States has said it will not release the names or numbers of people in Bangladesh subject to the visa restrictions.
"Visa records are confidential under US law," US Embassy Spokesperson Bryan Schiller told UNB Friday while responding to a question.
But, he said, the U.S. government has looked very closely at incidents since they announced this policy.
"After a careful review of the evidence, we have imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition," said Bryan Schiller.
In May this year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the new visa policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) ("3C") of the Immigration and Nationality Act to support Bangladesh's goal of holding free, fair, and peaceful national elections.
Under this policy, the United States will restrict the issuance of visas for any Bangladeshi individual, believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.
The Department of State on Friday said they are taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshi individuals responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh.
These individuals include members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition, he said. These persons and members of their immediate family may be found ineligible for entry into the United States.
Additional persons found to have been responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic election process in Bangladesh may also be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy in the future, according to the US Department of State.
This includes current and former Bangladeshi officials, members of opposition and ruling political parties, and members of law enforcement, the judiciary, and security services, Miller said.