Battle for democracy is worth waging: Shashi Tharoor | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 22, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:20 AM, February 14, 2021

Battle for democracy is worth waging: Shashi Tharoor

There are people who work behind the scene and are hardly recognised for their contributions to enlighten others. Izahar Ali of Jashore is one of them. He has been working to distribute newspapers to the doorsteps of readers for the last 62 years -- getting up before dawn and working till 9:00pm every day.

The 74-year-old, with the help of people of Dakatia village, also established a school -- Dakatia Secondary School -- in his village and has been paying salaries to the teachers.

Besides, he formed a cooperative society to address the water crisis for farming and helped build houses for 12 destitute families, established a madrasa and mosque with his own money.

"I want the newspaper [industry] to continue to thrive," Izahar said.

On the other hand, Abdul Aziz has worked as a web in-charge relentlessly for 43 years before his retirement in 2020. He lost a finger of his right hand while working at the newspaper printing press in 1982, but that never stopped him. Aziz, the only press employee in Bangladesh who had received training in the UK, is known as "Ustad" to his colleagues.

"Even after retirement, I dream about operating the machines in my sleep," Aziz said, adding that "printing press had become part of my life."

The Daily Star recognised their lifelong contributions on its 30th anniversary celebrated today. As token of appreciation, they were each given a crest and Tk 1 lakh.

The event began with a tribute to Latifur Rahman, founding director of The Daily Star, and a documentary on the history of Bangladesh -- beginning from the British colonial rule to the Liberation War of 1971 that the people fought for an independent, democratic and non-communal country.

A highlight of the event was Shashi Tharoor, noted Indian politician, writer, former diplomat, and Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha, since 2009.

In conversation with The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, he spoke of press freedom in South Asia, describing how the media landscape is changing with the advent of social media and higher level of surveillance.

"In Bangladesh, The Daily Star and Prothom Alo have flourished in spite of challenges. In India even though much of the media has sold out, there are still dissenting voices, such as minor websites," he said.

There are still enough journalists who believe in their mission and their duty to society, he said.

In response to a question on how the media can speak to the power, Tharoor said, "You have to have your conviction."

"Battle for democracy is worth waging," he said.

Addressing the event, The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said that it is a matter of great fortune that the newspaper is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year when Bangladesh celebrates the 50th anniversary of independence.

He said the country has come through the military rulers and achieved democracy through struggles. Today, Bangladesh is a role model for its achievements, and The Daily Star proudly celebrates every success of the country.

He said Bangladesh needs independent media as it brings out flaws of the society, identifies the areas that need correction and speaks of peoples' rights.

The future of Bangladesh is intertwined with economic growth and free media. As the country grows, there are potentials of corruption, mismanagement and waste of resources.

"It is only free media that can serve the people of Bangladesh and the representative government of Bangladesh that no other institution can do," Mahfuz Anam said.

He earnestly requested the government not to look at independent media with suspicion, but to work together in partnership.

"Authentic information can only be provided by independent journalism. And, the government of the day needs truth just as it needs resources, investment and good governance," he said.

Mahfuz Anam said Bangladesh has been successful in tackling Covid-19 despite resource constraints. It is one of the first few countries that has begun vaccination, and that too, free of cost.

He pledged to serve the readers with truth that strengthens democracy and peoples' rights and expressed gratitude to the readers, patrons and the staff who helped The Daily Star in its journey of 30 years.

He recalled the memories of Latifur Rahman, founding director of The Daily Star, whose values have helped a lot in the development of independent journalism.

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