Indian news organisation Firstpost on Friday said prime minister’s ICT adviser Sajeeb Wazed Joy’s remarks on his Facebook page opened the “floodgates for Awami League supporters to file defamation cases against The Daily Star editor to prove their loyalty to Sheikh Hasina.”
In an article ‘India is not alone: Neighbouring Bangladesh has its share of sedition sagas’ written by Seema Guha, it was also alleged that absolute power has made the Awami League vengeful.
To begin the article, the writer refereed to an Indian incident of framing a sedition charge against young Kanhaiya Kumar for the country’s security by joining hands with the likes of Hafiz Saeed, on the basis of a fake Twitter handle and said neighbouring Bangladesh has gone one step further. “It has 15 sedition charges against Mahfuz Anam, the much respected ditor of the country’s most popular English newspaper, The Daily Star,” said Seema Guha.
The article read, “Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League is all powerful, the friendly opposition is made up of parties who agreed to take part in the national elections, boycotted by the Bangladesh National Party.
Absolute power has made the Awami League vengeful.”
The article was critical of India and Bangladesh for using the law of the colonial era to frame sedition charges against their own citizens.
“Britain itself abolished this law in 1990, as a relic of a past era, which has no place in this day and age.”
It said the punishment for sedition in Bangladesh is death while two years rigorous imprisonment is the sentence for criminal defamation.
“Ironically Mahfuz Anam brought this on himself by remarks made on a television chat show (where else?) on 3 February, about an error of judgement in the past. Commenting on certain reports published in his newspaper, about cases of corruption against Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina, fed by government sources, he admitted that this was an error of editorial judgment, because the newspaper could not verify the facts independently,” read the article.
In the subheading ‘Show of Loyalty to Sheikh Hasina’, the article said the honest introspection of Mahfuz Anam, which it said should have been ignored, got out of hand when prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s son, Sajeeb Ahmed Wazed, put out these remarks on his Facebook page and
said that Anam should be tried for treason.
“That opened the floodgates for Awami supporters to prove their loyalty to the PM. The defamation cases filed against the editor are from all parts of the country. If nothing else, Anam will spend the next few years running from one court to the other. They could continue for years.”
The article, however, said that Mahfuz Anam supported the caretaker government, backed by the army in 2007-2008. “Fed up of the corruption and constant squabbling by the two begums – Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party – there was a move to make the two ladies quit politics. So, cases were filed against the leaders of both the national parties.”
It also alleged that the army was “attempting to promote Mohammed Yunus of the Grameen Bank, the Nobel Peace Prize winner of 2006, as the next prime minister and build a squeaky clean new party around him.”
Guha argued, “The idea was to stop the squabbling between the BNP and the AL, that had polarized the country and almost led to a standstill in the government.”
Then the writer shed some light on the affairs in the run up to and after the political changeover in January, 2007. “The Bangladesh army is no stranger to coups, and the initial move in
2007 was to take power. There would have been a military coup, but for the pressure from the UN and the international community. The UN warned that Bangladesh would not be allowed to send its forces for peace keeping missions. After much deliberation, the army decided
against a coup.
Instead, it put in place a number of technocrats to be the face of the caretaker government, while wielding actual power from behind the scenes. Meanwhile the idea was to give Bangladesh a brand new political party, and make both the Awami League and BNP irrelevant politically.”
Seema Guha then observed, “So during the caretaker rule in 2007-2008, the attempt was to tarnish the reputation of both Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda. Stalwarts of the Awami League and the BNP were asked to desert the Begums.”
The writer went on saying, “Loyalists, however, stood firm. The press was used by the military backed regime to plant stories against the two ladies. Sheikh Hasina was accused of graft and the newspapers were given details of the charges against her. The Daily Star, like many other newspapers of the time did publish the stories. But unlike other editors, Mahfuz Anam admitted to an error of editorial judgement to print stories that were not independently verified.”
The article said the witch-hunt against Anam has been criticized by journalists, academics, writers and the BNP.
“The opposition believes that the Sheikh Hasina government is stifling all legitimate criticism.”
“This is a foolish decision. Though I was opposed to Mahfuz Anam for his support of the military and its program of minus two, I am aghast at the way the government is going after him.Surely the man does not deserve this for honestly admitting his past mistake. I salute his
courage,’’ Dr Shantanu Majumder, associate professor in Dhaka University, was quoted to have said in the article.
Shantanu Majumder is, however, hopeful that this madness would blow-over in time, according to the article. – News Desk