Six treasury bench lawmakers and an independent MP last night demanded trial of The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam for “running false reports” on Sheikh Hasina after the 1/11 political changeover in 2007.
They said treason charges should be brought against Mahfuz Anam as he “committed sedition” by getting involved in a “conspiracy” to destroy democracy and establish an unconstitutional government.
At a talk show at a private TV station on February 3, Mahfuz Anam made an introspective comment about a lapse in his editorial judgement in publishing, following the 1/11 takeover, a few reports that the newspaper couldn't independently verify.
Ruling Awami League lawmaker Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh raised the issue in the House, taking the floor on a point of order after the Maghrib recess.
Taposh said Mahfuz Anam “confessed” without any hesitation that he ran stories in his newspaper in 2007 on the basis of fabricated information on corruption provided by the then DGFI “as part of a conspiracy to create grounds to banish Sheikh Hasina from politics, file false cases against her and put her in jail.”
“He published those fabricated, false and cooked-up stories in The Daily Star without confirming or verifying authenticity of the information provided by the DGFI [Directorate General of Forces Intelligence].
"I demand resignation of Mahfuz Anam for carrying out propaganda and for publishing reports on those false allegations... I demand that the newspaper be shut immediately.
“People like Mahfuz Anam have been conspiring to bring an unconstitutional government and destroy democracy throughout their life,” Taposh said.
Referring to article 7A of the constitution, Taposh said Mahfuz Anam's activities were obviously a seditious offence as per the charter, and he should be tried for treason.
Article 7A(1) of the constitution says: If any person, by show of force or use of force or by any other un-constitutional means-(a) abrogates, repeals or suspends or attempts or conspires to abrogate, repeal or suspend this constitution or any of its article; or (b) subverts or attempts or conspires to subvert the confidence, belief or reliance of the citizens to this constitution or any of its article, his such act shall be sedition and such person shall be guilty of sedition.
(2)If any person-(a) abets or instigates any act mentioned in clause (1); or (b) approves, condones, supports or ratifies such act, his such act shall also be the same offence.
Taposh said, "Journalism is a noble profession, but he has disgraced it. He has no right to be a journalist any more. Steps should be taken so that he cannot do journalism any more.
“Latifur Rahman, owner of The Daily Star and Transcom Group, is a corrupt person. His connection with terrorist group Ulfa [the United Liberation Front of Asom] was known to many Bangladeshis. Action should also be taken against them,” he added.
Another AL lawmaker, Waresat Hussain Belal, said people like Mahfuz Anam are tainting journalism in the name of practising this noble profession. Their aim is to have their personal interests met.
“Journalism should be done without fear and favour. But he is doing just the opposite.
“People across the country know the source of their money. How a newspaper running with that money can do fair journalism? That is why it published unwarranted comments against Sheikh Hasina and publicised the blueprint of a few army officials.”
“They wanted depoliticisation. They wanted to send politics into exile. They are still engaged in such a conspiracy.”
“A few days ago, he [Mahfuz Anam] apologised for his past activities. But the question before the nation is whether such people can expect forgiveness. Because people like them will again engage in such activities after they are forgiven.
“That is why we will have to raise our voice against such people so that they cannot remain in journalism any more. Their misdeeds and their mask must be laid bare before the nation” Belal added.
AL lawmaker Abu Sayeed Al Mahmood Swapon said they wanted to impede the country's progress and destroy the rights of the poor.
“That is why they hatched a conspiracy against the world's best politician -- Sheikh Hasina… they wanted that Bangladesh could never stand before the world as a successful nation.” And people like Mahfuz Anam know this very well that only Sheikh Hasina can take the country to that height, he said.
Raising questions about the source of The Daily Star's money, Swapon alleged, “They want to use Bangladesh for the destruction of another country.
“They should be given exemplary punishment through trial so that they do not dare to engage in such activities in the future.”
Their wish was to fly flags in their cars and run the country. But people are not with them, he said.
“If you want to fly flags in your cars, you should become politicians, get close to people and work to ease their sufferings.
“But instead of doing that, you are assassinating characters of politicians all the time, taking advantage of being in the media,” he added.
Nurjahan Begum, an AL MP elected to a reserved seat for women, demanded trial of Mahfuz Anam and others, who were engaged in “yellow journalism” after the 1/11 changeover.
As Nurjahan concluded her speech, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, who was presiding over the sitting, started the business of call attention notice of MPs.
But she later allowed independent MP Haji Selim, also Dhaka City AL leader, to speak on a point of order on this issue.
AL lawmaker Shamsul Haq Tuku, former state minister for home, also joined the criticism against The Daily Star editor, demanding legal action against him.
Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal lawmaker Mayeen Uddin Khan Badal said the freedom of the media is very important for flourishing of democracy.
“We want free media.
“If anyone uses the freedom of the media as a shield to hurt any individual, and if that affects the entire nation… against such a backdrop, the issue of his punishment is being raised here.”
Badal accused The Daily Star editor of carrying out “paper trial” of Sheikh Hasina even before the start of the trial process.
“You cannot escape just saying sorry for your mistake. You should resign if you think that you have made a mistake,” he said.
The seven MPs spoke for nearly half-an-hour in the unscheduled discussion, criticising The Daily Star editor.