'Politics behind the harassment'

Mahfuz Anam
Mahfuz Anam

The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam didn’t do wrong in publishing the news provided by an intelligence agency during the 1/11 rule. After a span of time, out of respect for journalistic ethics, he has admitted his mistake. Charges of sedition or libel brought against him in this regard are an excessive reaction. It is sheer politics that has provoked such harassment. The government should apply is good sense and draw an end to the matter, rather than remaining at loggerheads with the media.

On Friday, Barrister Rafiq-ul Huq, lawyer Shahdeen Malik, editor Reazuddin Ahmed and journalist leader Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul spoke to Prothom Alo about the issue. The above is a summary of their views.

A few members of parliament have demanded that the Daily Star be shut down and editor Mahfuz Anam be arrested. The government-backed student front Chhatra League formed a human chain. And then four cases accusing Mahfuz Anam of defamation were filed from different places around the country. He has also been charged of sedition. The four eminent persons spoke in this context.

Rafique-ul Haque
Rafique-ul Haque

Barrister Rafiq-up Huq
I view what is happening against Mahfuz Anam as a very bad precedence. He printed whatever he did during the 1/11 time.

If it was a mistake, so be it. What is the big deal? How is this sedition? I simply cannot comprehend this. It makes no sense. That means nothing can be said or written if anything amounts to sedition.

Perhaps prime minister Sheikh Hasina does not like the Daily Star group and hence the pressure.

Shahdeen Malik
Shahdeen Malik

Shahdeen Malik
A defamation suit is supposed to be brought about by the person who has been defamed. The defamation suits filed against Mahfuz Anam have no legal basis. Besides, it is not understandable how Mahfuz’s statements are tantamount to sedition. These allegations have no legal basis.

These cases are being filed out of vengeance with the motive of harassing Mahfuz. Politics is behind this. This is nothing but an effort to curtail freedom of expression.

Section 124K of the Code of Criminal Procedure terms provocative statements that spread hatred and vengeance against any legally-installed government, an offence. There is no mention of the word ‘State’. The sedition case was filed in connection with the incidents of a government that was installed after the one-eleven political change-over.
Did Mahfuz write or say something against the government of that time? Furthermore, that was not the government of Sheikh Hasina.

People can commit mistakes. But now it looks like admitting a mistake is wrong.  

Reazuddin Ahmed
Reazuddin Ahmed

Reazuddin Ahmed
There are political motives behind the castigation of Mahfuz Anam, nothing journalistic. I do not understand how the issue of treason has arisen. If Sheikh Hasina or anyone else is affected by Daily Star reporting, it must be kept in mind that many other television channels and dailies did the same. It is unfair to blame him alone. This will deal a blow to the independent media.

There must be judicial inquiry of one-eleven. Those who supported the army-backed government and who were beneficiaries should be exposed. Vested groups of politicians, businessmen and journalists would be identified. Mahfuz Anam should not be targeted solely. This matter must end now.

The information minister said Mahfuz Anam was bold. I think Mahfuz Anam, by his confession, showed his respect to the profession. The reactions were unjust.

We cannot practice perfect journalism always. Reports are being published nowadays similar to the ones appearing during the one-eleven rule. The media has been publishing reports based of Article 164. There is no scope of verification. The state organs are putting pressure on the media.

Mahfuz Anam is the editor of a popular daily. By harassing him, the government wants to send a message to the other editors and journalists. That would force self-censorship in media.

Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul
Manzurul Ahsan Bulbul

Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul

Publishing the stories, for which Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam is facing the recent reactions, is not an error in the newspaper or in journalism. It is similar to video footages of Osama bin Laden being aired.

It is not a crime to run stories based on video footage or paper documents provided by any of the forces.
It is a matter of editorial policy whether publishing such stories is right or wrong.

In this case, my view is that the editorial policy of Daily Star and Mahfuz Anam was not correct as the stories were made based on the video footages and speeches which were delivered by the political leaders in a special circumstance.
They were in a special situation and it could have been taken cognizance whether they would say such things in a normal situation.

However, Mahfuz Anam has taken a bold decision by confessing his mistake. Admitting mistakes is one of largest beauties of journalism and this practice enhances people’s faith and trust in media.

Through this, Mahfuz Anam showed his professionalism and journalism as an editor.

The cases or statements delivered in the parliament [against Mahfuz Anam] were political reactions. The irate ones are registering their reactions.

I would request the speaker to look into whether such discussions can be held on such a person who has no scope to defend himself in the House.

The government must consider the entire matter patiently. The media and the government should not be at loggerheads. There is no room for impatience. In my eyes, newspapers are messengers. The Daily Star published the stories as messengers and, as the saying goes, “don’t kill the messenger!”

The people, who prepared and supplied the messages, should be nabbed.

Those who made politicians make statements and forced the newspapers to publish these, should be identified.

Political quarters are now targeting the messengers. The people who actually drew up the reports should be confronted.

There is now scope for journalists, editors and politicians to take part in an academic discussion on deciding what to do if such a situation arises again in the future.

Journalism has partial freedom. Pressure does not come only from the government and political quarters. There is pressure from the owners and advertisers, as well. However, I think, the other media houses won’t be affected by the tirade against the Daily Star and Mahfuz Anam.

Read more: