Blasting The Daily Star for running “the DGFI-supplied false news” against her during the tenure of the last caretaker government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said the Star editor himself could not demonstrate his “courage” by stepping down from his post after admitting his faults.
“He must have tendered his resignation had he any self-dignity…. For such a mistake, everybody including the common people, Awami League leaders and workers, businessmen and the student community had paid an unbearable price. My family and I also had to pay for the mistake dearly,” she told a discussion on the occasion of Amar Ekushey and the International Mother Language Day.
The Awami League organised the discussion at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.
Referring to the resignation of BBC director general and its some other journalists over running false news against a minister or MP, the premier said they had quit their posts showing moral courage.
“When it was proved that the news was fake, the BBC director general and others involved in disseminating that news had not only begged pardon, but also resigned from their posts,” she said adding, they did it as they had moral courage.
Hasina said who would believe that a newspaper like The Daily Star would publish whatever the DGFI had supplied to it since the paper is very much aware of its language. “It seems that the DGFI is more intelligent than The Daily Star as whatever the DGFI supplied, the daily published in full like a good boy.”
In this connection, she warned that those who had orchestrated conspiracies would be tried the way the war criminals are being tried. “Those who were involved in this conspiratorial plot would be tried like the war criminals for destroying the constitution.”
The PM said the paper became too desperate to brand her as corrupt during the last caretaker regime by publishing news against her.
“So, I would like to tell Mahfuz Anam that you have made many ill attempts to brand me as corrupt. You are merely a Mahfuz Anam, but even your mentor World Bank could not label me corrupt over the Padma bridge issue,” she mentioned.
Hasina said a certain quarter is now expressing “frustration and grief” over filing of cases against the Star editor.
Making her stand clear, the PM said she had argued that the chief of the caretaker government would run the country, not the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI).
“My house was searched twice and I was arrested without any warrant. My sick husband was pushed down...we didn't disclose it, but I want to know who provoked it,” she said in an emotion-choked voice.
Hasina said she was dragged to jail where she had to live in a damp room and sleep on a fragile, torn bed.
The premier said she was kept into solitary confinement for 11 months. “Even my relatives were not allowed to meet me on the Eid day. I became sick as I suffered from allergy and an eye infection, but no physician was permitted to visit me.”
She said her husband and fupu (aunt) were at last allowed to meet her on the Eid day, but the latter was asked not to disclose her sickness to the media. “My fupu didn't disclose it on that day, but she revealed it later by calling in reporters to her house.”
The PM said she was later shifted to the hospital from the jail, but was again taken to the jail when the doctors said a blood test was needed for her. “I was transferred to the hospital again when I fell sick due to low pressure.”
“During that time, I was not allowed to change my dress and I was taken to the court. There were 16 cases against me... a dozen of those were filed by the BNP and the rest by the caretaker government.”
The PM asked those who are making statements protesting filing of the cases against the Star editor as to what would be their reaction if they were kept into solitary confinement for 11 months.
“Would you make statements and offer sympathy if torture, repression and mental pressure are inflicted on your families like my son, daughter and sister underwent during that time?” she questioned.
Hasina said the then caretaker government had tried to form a King's Party, but failed. Later, a world-renowned Bangladeshi national tried to float a political party and prepared a list of 70 persons while the Star editor backed the move, she added.
About the January 5, 2014 national elections, she said the people would judge the role of the newspaper which tried to foil the polls. “But when we held the elections, frustration gripped them as their dreams remained unfulfilled.”
She said when the Liberation War began, she went through sudden disruption in her studies but the Star editor moved to West Pakistan for his education. “Later, he [Star editor] went to Kolkata and he was given the responsibility for writing English as he knew English...this is his joining the Liberation War.”
“What could we expect from a person who moved to Pakistan during the war for higher education? What these people, who helped Brigadier Amin and Brigadier Bari as well as the DGFI, can deliver for the country and the people?” she asked.
The PM said those, who published the DGFI-supplied fake news, had so far written “fake, false and adulterated reports by pretending to be honest”. “Their intention is to destroy the country,” she complained.
In this connection, she mentioned that some AL leaders have opened their mouth on this issue, but there is still hesitation among some others to speak the truth.
The PM said two newspapers have been engaged in spreading malice against her over the last 20 years. “Except for the initial few years, these papers since their inception always spread malice against me and wrote against me...it seems that the Awami League is their enemy…. They have been unmasked now as truth can never be suppressed.”
The country witnessed the emergency rule due to misrule and corruption of the BNP-Jamaat government, she told her audience. “A different face emerged when the caretaker regime assumed power. They tried to consolidate their power and the two newspapers backed them.”
The Star editor admitted that he ran the DGFI-supplied unverified news, but the paper's masthead always reads “journalism without fear or favour”.
What kind of journalism it was when the editor published unverified news, she questioned. “My question is that what type of friendship he had with the DGFI or Brig Bari or Brig Amin? Was it a fact that he had been sold out to them?”
Hasina also wanted to know whether the Star editor was involved in the plot of “minus-two formula". “If you publish such false news, there won't be journalism without fear, but I have nothing to say if you are sold out.”
Hasina said the Ekushey is the symbol of grief, strength and glory in the life of every Bangali.
“On this day in 1952, many valiant sons of the soil, including Rafiq, Shafique, Salam, Barkat and Jabbar sacrificed their lives for protecting the dignity of the mother tongue.”
Hasina paid her deep homage to the memories of the language martyrs. She also paid her deep respect to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who had steered the Language Movement from inside the jail.
The resonance of the pride of Amar Ekushey is now resounded in the hearts of the people of 193 countries surpassing the boundary of Bangladesh, she mentioned.
“The day reached to a new height on 17 November 1999 when the Unesco recognised the 21 February as the International Mother Language Day at the initiative of the then Awami League government and with the help of some expatriate Bangladeshis,” the PM said.
The government has set up International Mother Language Institute to preserve the languages of the world and carry out research on those, she noted.
She said the Ekushey is the symbol of our democratic values, Bangali nationalism, spirit of liberation war and secularism.
The government, being imbued with the spirit of the great Ekushey, has been working to build a modern and prosperous Bangladesh free from poverty, hunger, terrorism, communalism and illiteracy, said the premier.
“During the last seven years, our government achieved the desired progress in all sectors. Bangladesh is now a role model for development in the world,” added the PM.
Deputy Leader of the Jatiya Sangshad and AL presidium member Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury chaired the function. Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Public Administration Minister Syed Ashraful Islam and Disaster Management and Relief Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya spoke, among others.
A one-minute silence was observed as a mark of respect to the memories of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, four national leaders, martyrs of the Liberation War and the Language Movement.
STAR EDITOR BLASTED AT JS
The Daily Star correspondent adds: AL Organising Secretary Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury yesterday said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was arrested in 2007 “due to false reports run by The Daily Star on her”.
“Due to publishing of false news [in the Star], Sheikh Hasina who is now leading the country's 16 crore people had to stay in a solitary house for 11 months without any trial,” he told parliament while speaking on the thanksgiving motion on the president's speech.
“She [PM] was made sick and there was a plan to kill her in jail in a planned way,” claimed the lawmaker.
“But thanks to people of Bangla, they foiled the conspiracy of the players of 1/11 and made their leader prime minister.”
Merely expressing sorry is not enough for the “great mistake” Mahfuz Anam has committed. It's not a simple mistake, said Khalid.
“Now ministers are facing trials, lawmakers are also made accountable for their corruption. Everyone in this country has to face law. I want to know, honourable Speaker, whether a separate law would be enacted in case of Mahfuz Anam,” he added.