Nine eminent citizens today expressed grave concern over the countrywide filing of cases and issuance of summons against the Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star Mahfuz Anam.
In a press statement, they requested the government and all parties concerned to take step so that the ongoing harassment against Mahfuz Anam does not proceed further.
The dignitaries are: Prof Anisuzzaman, Prof Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Advocate Sultana Kamal, Prof MM Akash, Dr Sarwar Ali, Ziauddin Tariq Ali, Ayesha Khanam, and Abul Hasnat.
A total of 64 cases, of which 15 are sedition pleas and the rest defamation suits, have so far been filed against Mafuz Anam allegedly for the “reports against Sheikh Hasina” published during the 2007-2008 tenure of the last caretaker government.
The lawsuit spree began days after the Star editor at a talk show on February 3 made an introspective comment about a lapse in his editorial judgement in publishing a few reports, based on information given by the Task Force Interrogation Cell during the last caretaker government, without being able to verify those independently.
The citizens said Mahfuz Anam, abiding by the rules and ethics of journalism, has admitted the lapses in the reports published under a "special circumstance" and it could have been an example of superior culture, had the matter disposed of with his admission.
But bringing out defamation and sedition charges against him in one district after another and filing so many cases against him have become a matter of harassment, which is tantamount to ignoring democratic atmosphere and freedom of media as well as citizen’s freedom of opinion.
"We are concerned that such stance can pave the way for the undemocratic and reactionary forces to go on with their conspiratorial ill-efforts," the statement read.
The government, mass media and the civil society will have to tackle such situation being more responsible in their respective areas, it said.