National Human Rights Commission chairman has slammed the Editors’ Council and a group of citizens for their demand to withdraw cases against The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam.Mizanur Rahman was replying to reporters’ queries after inaugurating the Law Faculty of Chittagong Independent University in Chittagong on Thursday.
The Council and the citizens argue that the cases against Anam were an infringement of his freedom of expression, and hence be withdrawn.
“Now you are saying the cases are disrupting his freedom of speech…Then why didn’t you show similar enthusiasm in the case of (Abdul) Latif Siddique? Why didn’t you say that he (Siddique) had been harassed and detained for expressing his view?” Rahman wondered.
Former telecoms minister Siddique had spoken against Hajj and Tabligh Jamaat in October 2014 in a New York event.
He was hit with a barrage of lawsuits accusing him of hurting religious sentiments and amidst uproar, he was expelled from the Cabinet and the Awami League.
He had been detained in the cases and was released last year after being in jail for over six months.
Rahman said the demand by ‘some’ foreign organisations that the government should withdraw the cases against Anam was ‘baseless.’
“What can the government do if overenthusiastic individuals file cases?” he asked.
Rahman, however, praised Anam for owning up to his mistakes.
“Now the matter is under court’s jurisdiction. It will follow the legal procedure,” he added.
The Daily Star editor has been in the eye of a storm following his own confession during a TV talk show that he had run unverified corruption reports against Sheikh Hasina. He called his own action ‘a big mistake’.
He has drawn heavy flak from Awami League leaders and about 100 cases demanding billions of taka as damages have been filed against him.
In his address to the inauguration, Rahman criticised BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia for expressing doubt over the number of Liberation War martyrs.
He said Khaleda’s comments on the issue were ‘rubbish’ and ‘audacious’.