Samsuzzaman being picked up and commitment to independence

Prothom Alo's staff correspondent in Savar, ShamsuzzamanCollected

The day began with bad news. We learnt that Prothom Alo’s staff correspondent in Savar, Samsuzzaman, had been picked up at 4:00 am early morning on 29 March by plainclothesmen from his house at Ambagan near Jahangirnagar University. They introduced themselves as CID men. We went to the CID office and met a few officials, but no one admitted to knowing anything about the matter.

By the afternoon we learnt that around 2:15am in the night, a certain person, Syed Md Golam Kibria (36), had filed a case under the Digital Security Act against Samsuzzaman.

Prothom Alo will definitely deal with the case legally.

However, certain media outlets have stirred up controversy over Prothom Alo’s online news and Facebook post. Reactions in the social media also indicate that many people are getting the wrong picture or partial picture simply based on a screen shot. That is why it had become imperative to make Prothom Alo’s stand and explanation known.

In an online report of Prothom Alo on 26 March, the statement of a child flower seller, Sabuj Miah, at the Savar Smrti Shouddha (the Savar mausoleum) was published. The information of the report had been gathered on 25 Mach, the day before it was published. The mausoleum had been closed. Quoting Sabuj Miah, it was said, ‘On Independence Day he waits to sell more flowers than usual. Sabuj said, “They aren’t letting us enter the mausoleum now. They will tomorrow. Then there will be a good sale of flowers.” Sabuj Miah’s picture was published too. In the same report, a day labourer of the Savar Smriti Shoudha area, Zakir Hossain, was also quoted. He said, “You break out into sweat if you go to the market. We need independence for fish, meat and rice (adequate meals).”

Based on this report, a post was uploaded on Prothom Alo’s Facebook page, quoting the day labourer Zakir Hossain. The picture was of the young flower seller Sabuj Miah. Noting the discrepancy between the picture and the quote, the post was speedily removed from Prothom Alo’s Facebook page.

To ensure that the readers were not misled, the headline in Prothom Alo online was corrected and Sabuj Miah’s picture was removed from the report.

In accordance to journalistic norms, mentioned at the end of the report that the picture used in the report initially had been removed and the headline changed. It said that the quote in the headline was not of Sabuj Miah, but of the day labourer Zakir Hossain. That is why the post in social media had also been removed.

Release Samsuzzaman unconditionally. Withdraw the case against him. Give some solace to Samsuzzaman’s widowed mother who had already lost a son

The matter could have ended there, but it didn’t. Several quarters launched a campaign against Prothom Alo. However, many conscious citizens on social media took Prothom Alo’s side, expressing their support in posts and comments.

From a long 36 years experience in journalism and writing, I can say this much – Prothom Alo did not publish incorrect news. It did not put up incorrect posts on Facebook, though there was room for misinterpretation. The statement was of day labourer Zakir, the picture was of the child flower vendor. Readers may well ask whether a child could speak in such a manner. I will not blame the readers. It would have been best of Prothom Alo hadn’t left room for error.

Now let’s come to the issue of hunger and independence. Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had said, “This independence will be in vain if my people of Bengal cannot fill their stomachs with a full meal of rice. This independence will not be complete if my mothers and sisters of Bengal do not get clothes to wear… this independence will not be complete if the people of this country, my young people, do not get jobs, do not get work.” Bangabandhu uttered these words of 10 January 1972 at the Racecourse Maidan upon his return to the country.

I quote again from this 10 January speech of Bangabandhu: “In Shaa Allah, since we have become independent, we will remain independent – this struggle will continue for as long as even one person remains living in this Bangladesh.”

Independence doesn’t just mean celebrations and festivity. Celebrations are important, but independence means that each and every citizen has a right to food, votes and freedom of expression.

Release Samsuzzaman unconditionally. Withdraw the case against him. Give some solace to Samsuzzaman’s widowed mother who had already lost a son. Samsuzzaman’s brother, police assistant commissioner Rabiul Islam, was killed, martyred while valiantly fighting against the militants in 2016 attack on Holey Artisan, Gulshan. After losing her elder son, Samsuzzaman became the centre of mother Karimon Nesa’s life.

We want to reassure our readers that the liberation war and independence is the mainstay and inspiration of our journalism. Prothom Alo at various times has published a multitude of writings, special issues, supplements and books on our advancement and achievements. We uphold the spirit of the liberation war, guard it as precious treasure. If by any chance we make an error in our choice of words or selection of photographs, we correct that in accordance the universally accepted journalistic rules and fix our direction with the liberation war as our compass. We do not falter or compromise when it comes to the liberation war. We believe that independent Bangladesh, achieved through the great liberation war, continues to overcome all odds to go ahead. Victory is guaranteed.

* Anisul Hoque is Prothom Alo’s managing editor and a writer