The Daily Star received at 7:30 pm last Tuesday a rejoinder signed by Abul Kalam Azad, the press secretary to the prime minister, on two items published by this paper, a news item “PM on Star: Our comments”, and an editorial, “PM’s emphatic ‘no’, a rude jolt”, both published on Monday, 19 August 2013.
The covering letter of the press secretary says, “We found the report and the editorial as imaginary and baseless. So we are sending herewith our response to your distortion of facts.”
Below we publish the unedited full text of the “PMO’s response”.
The readers will note that though the response refers to our news item, “PM on Star: our response”, it does not cite a single instance of distortion in our reports, in spite of our urging the PMO to do so.
The “PMO’s response”, on the other hand, deals entirely with our editorial and terms it a “glairing example of distortion of truth”.
We will publish our response to the above rejoinder tomorrow, Friday, 23 August 2013.
However, we would like to point that according to journalistic practice a “rejoinder” is meant for a particular paper for a specific published item. It usually is not a matter for any other news media.
Our attention has been drawn to the news item published in your daily on August 20, 2013 titled “PM on Star: Our comments” by the Editor of the daily and one of its today’s editorials titled “PM’s emphatic ‘no’, a rude jolt”. In the report, The Daily Star alleged that the Hon’ble Prime Minister, the highest executive of the country, made a pointed attack on the newspaper despite its best practices to uphold the highest level of ethical journalism.
It is the expectation of each reader of a newspaper that it would practice ethical journalism and refrain from distortion of the facts. Unfortunately, The Daily Star, being an influential daily, is out of the practice every now and then. Even today’s editorial is a glaring example of distortion of the truth.
In the editorial, the daily said, the fifteenth amendment of the Constitution was held ‘according to her (PM) own wishes, and in undue haste, without a serious effort to engage anybody, including her own allies …’ As a matter of fact, the Government followed a lengthy process for the fifteenth amendment in the Constitution.
The Supreme Court in May, 2010 declared the caretaker government system illegal, void and ultra vires to the Constitution.
Keeping in mind to involve all political parties representing in the Parliament with the amendment process, the government and the Parliament secretariat had requested the BNP several times formally and informally to give the names of at least two MPs with a view to include in the Special Committee in this regard (except Jamaat, as the party does not believe in the fundamental principles of the Constitution). For the first time in the history of constitutional amendments in Bangladesh, such Committee was formed by the Government. However, the BNP did not turn up with any name with an ill-motive. Except BNP, all representing political parties gave their names.
Then, the Leader of the House and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the Parliamentary session on July 21, 2010 as per Article 266 of the Rules of Procedure proposed the 15-member ‘Special Committee’ comprising the members of the Parliament from different political parties with the Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury as the chairperson.
The Special Committee also accommodated a cross-section of eminent people including a number of former Chief Justices, Supreme Court’s Judges, senior lawyers, leaders of the political parties, eminent intellectuals and freedom fighters, editors including The Daily Star Editor Mr. Mahfuz Anam, senior journalists irrespective of their political views to come to a decision on the very important issue.
After about one year intense discussion, the special committee submitted its report to the Parliament. On the basis of the report of the Special Committee, the fifteenth amendment bill was placed in the Parliament by the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister. Usually, such an important bill should be placed by the Leader of the House. But she gave the responsibility to the Law Minister so that the MPs do not take it as PM’s affairs and give their views freely on the bill. The bill was discussed accordingly in the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs. The Standing Committee scrutinized the bill and reported it back to the Parliament with its recommendations.
Though BNP did not take part in the activities of the Special Committee, the party had immense scope to give their opinion at any stage of the one-year process and also in the parliamentary proceedings during the passage of the bill in the House on June 30, 2011. But with an ulterior motive they kept them in abeyance from the process. The Daily Star perhaps knowingly ignored the fact aimed at making the government’s sincere efforts questionable.
Neither the Government nor the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes in maligning or bashing media. Rather, the present government is a real promoter to “Full freedom of the media” and gave approval to 15 new satellite TV channels so far. The present government provided licenses to 14 community radios for the first time and 7 FM radios.
The press is now enjoying the highest freedom than ever before. The present government does not believe in interference in expressing any thought and opinion. However, it is very regretful that a section of the press, which have limitation of thoughts, cannot give due value to the government’s sincere endeavours.
However, we do appreciate the positive role of The Daily Star in many areas and welcome their reports pointing out the errors of the government. At the same time, we expect their judicious observation and comments on the initiatives taken by the government for the welfare of the people of all walks of life.
Abul Kalam Azad
Press Secretary to the Hon’ble Prime Minister