Democracy needs active role of newspapers: President
President Abdul Hamid today called upon all newspapers to continue their contributions to the development of the country through responsible journalism.
“They [newspapers] need to play a pro-active role in preserving the democracy and upholding the values of the constitution of the country,” he said, speaking as the chief guest of a programme on The Daily Star’s 25th anniversary at the Osmani Auditorium in the capital, Dhaka.
He also called upon the newspapers to exercise the freedom of the press responsibly to bring welfare for the people and the country.
The Daily Star awarded 24 prominent individuals and an institution with lifetime achievement awards at the event to honour their contribution to the society.
A number of newspaper leaders from South and Southeast Asia also attended the programme.
Addressing the programme, President Abdul Hamid said the government believes in press freedom and any attack on the press is also a threat to democracy and that the journalists must fight evil forces concertedly, he said.
Terming newspapers the mirror of a country, Hamid said free flow of information and freedom of expression was important for the proper development of mass media.
Besides enacting the Right to Information law, he said, the government has been giving all-out cooperation so that media could run independently.
However, independence does not mean doing anything as per wish, he warned.
Underscoring the importance of newspapers, the president said during the Pakistan period, newspapers courageously stood against the oppression and discrimination against the Bangali people by the West Pakistani ruling cliques.
They asserted the common man's demand for the right to freedom.
“During the Liberation War, the international media were instrumental in creating global public opinion in favour of the cause of our freedom struggle. After independence, newspapers devoted their creative energy to the rebuilding of the war-torn nation,” he mentioned.
Most newspapers have maintained a secular and democratic stance and played a patriotic role at various critical moments of the country, he added.
Hamid also said newspapers voiced the woes of the downtrodden people of the society to establish their rights.
“Their intellectual input to planning and implementation of various development policies such as women empowerment, poverty reduction, urban and rural development is well-recognised.”
The president said English language dailies have a special place in our media scene as they connect Bangladesh to the global audience and brightened the image of the country by highlighting its successes.
Among them, he mentioned The Daily Star deserves special mention.
“Through impartial and investigative reporting and analysis, it carved a special place in the hearts of people both at home and abroad.”
Besides publishing news and opinions, he said The Daily Star is very committed to social causes like tackling climate change, saving rivers and the environment, protecting the rights of children and women, and various development issues.
The president also applauded the paper’s initiative of honouring distinguished people from different fields every year to recognise their contributions to their respective fields.
He also praised the initiative of awarding top performing students of O- and A-level to encourage them to contribute to the country and hoped that The Daily Star would continue such efforts.
Hamid said the media should have the courage to say white when it is white and say black when it is black, which can take a journalist to the peak of his professional excellence.
“You will criticise the government and also me. However, you have to keep in mind that it should be based on facts, in no way it should be biased. Constructive criticism can play an important role in taking right decision for running the government and building the nation.”
On terrorism and militancy, he said those were not now limited to the boundaries of any country, rather a global problem.
“The mass media will have to equip itself with latest technology to resist and unearth various technology-based organised crimes in the local and international arena.”
The president said media would also have to play a role so that none could do anything evil misusing religion. At the moment, he said all the media and especially the newspapers must work together to fight extremism and terrorist activities.
He said Bangladesh is a land of religious harmony and “we will never compromise with this tradition”.
Hamid concluded by saying that responsible and professional practice of the press serve the people with correct information and help them enhance their knowledge and awareness.
Earlier, while delivering the welcome address, Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said the newspaper was born in 1991 when democracy was restored, with an unflinching commitment for democracy.
“Daily Star will continue to work relentlessly to this end,” he expressed his firm determination.
“A newspaper lives when it lives up to the expectation of ethical journalism,” he said, thanking Daily Star’s readers for their continuous support over the past 25 years.
In her vote of thanks, Rokia Afzal Rahman, president of Mediaworld Ltd that owns the newspaper, said editorial independence lies at the core of The Daily Star’s success as a credible newspaper.
Expressing her gratitude to the board’s unwavering support for freedom of press, she thanked the journalists of the newspaper for maintaining utmost standard of journalism.