Govt should give a second thought

The series of defamation suits and charge of sedition cascading one after another on the Daily Star editor, Mahfuz Anam, after his admission in a television talk-show on February 3 of making a grave journalistic mistake in publishing uncorroborated stories fed by the military intelligence during the military-backed regime, between early 2007 and late 2008, on Sheikh Hasina, the current prime minister, is unfortunate and disconcerting. The admission of the Daily Star editor created a furore, with some willing to see him behind bars, some trying him on sedition charges and some, with the latest being the Awami League presidium member who is also the health and family welfare minister, seeking the editor’s resignation after having published ‘false reports’. In the melee of so many people seeming to get down on Mahfuz Anam, a metropolitan magistrate’s court on Thursday, as New Age reported on Friday, ordered the Kotwali police of Dhaka to investigate sedition charges, on a complaint filed by an assistant public prosecutor, against the Daily Star editor after obtaining permission from the government. We believe there should be no reason for the government to give the green signal. The courage to be honest that Mahfuz Anam showed — he could not have admitted to making the mistake that he had not been forced to — should be regarded a positive gesture especially when many others, newspaper editors. Making such admission may not condone what came about by way of this, but this also does not make the situation grave enough so that seemingly all staying in the comfortable vicinity of the power of the day, that too well past the military-driven regime, should call out the authorities on sending the editor behind bars for making the mistakes. This more so as many of these people, who were, and still are, close to the Awami League leader along with the ranking officials of the military, tried to falsely denigrate the political leadership, with efforts, off again and one again, to split the party, or parties. The Awami League has, after coming back to power, only rewarded many of these people, without lifting a finger to mete out justice to them. It, therefore, dawns on that the series of events that have come about could only be construed as harassment of a kind of the Daily Star editor, that too, with support of the political party in power, ultimately aimed at making the media cower in future. Under the circumstances, we believe that such harassment, or efforts leading to harassment, must stop. And the government, rather than allowing the investigation in question, must realise that it does not have any moral right to punish a mistaken editor while allowing many of its own members going unpunished.