Nine eminent citizens have expressed grave concern over the filing of more than 50 cases and issuance of summons against The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam.
In a press statement yesterday, they requested the government and all parties concerned to take steps so that the ongoing situation that amounts to harassing Mahfuz Anam does not go on.
The signatories are Prof Anisuzzaman, Prof Serajul Islam Choudhury, Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, advocate Sultana Kamal, Dr Sarwar Ali, Ziauddin Tariq Ali, Ayesha Khanam, Prof MM Akash and Abul Hasnat.
A total of 69 cases -- 54 defamation suits and 15 sedition pleas -- have so far been filed against Mahfuz Anam 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 rule, without being able to verify those independently.
The eminent citizens said Mahfuz Anam, abiding by the rules and ethics of journalism, admitted the lapses in the reports published under "special circumstances", and it could have been an example of superior culture if the matter were settled through “this admission”.
But the filing of defamation and sedition charges against him in one district after another has taken the matter to the extent of harassing him, which is tantamount to undermining democratic atmosphere and freedom of the press as well as citizen's freedom of expression.
"We are concerned that such a situation may create a scope for undemocratic and reactionary forces to carry on their evil acts," the statement read.
The eminent citizens said the government, mass media and the civil society would have to tackle the situation, taking more responsibility from their respective positions.