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Prothom Alo and Daily Star. I actually don’t blame myself while being highly skeptical about two most notable newspapers of our country, because they practically were correlated to my association with blogging in past. I remember the role that Prothom Alo and Daily Star played amid the 1/11 misrule in fact when I started active blogging, where I and many other bloggers can quite rightfully state based upon facts that they were becoming the engineers to establish the public support for the 1/11 regime which appeared to have been having ill-motives against Bangladesh. Whenever we had a confusion about what the then ‘Lord of the Rings’ Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed were trying to say or do, we were used to read Prothom Alo or Daily Star editorials or others’ write-ups inside them. In fact their articles or news reports at that time were written in such way that Gen. Moeen and his conmen were being quite well explained.
Prothom Alo and Daily Star claim themselves to have the highest circulation among those of their competitors, which I don’t deny. And considering them as two leading newspapers of Bangladesh, they have so far faced handful of allegations which I believe no other leading newspaper in Bangladesh did and in most of the countries are too much rare to face. The series of allegations include with, being weapons to knock down their owner’s business rivals, being an unofficial media body to provide subsequent explications of an undemocratic and unlawful government’s series of ill-motivated steps etc. Deeds they did to viciously support the undemocratic 1/11 government should be enough to completely discourage number of people who could have respect on them as honest journalists.
What Salman F. Rahman today has told, I consider it to be his right to defend himself if someone throws dirt to him. We remember that after the unlawful grab attempt of a Gulshan Avenue residential building by group of people claiming themselves to be conmen of Mahfuzur Rahman holding a signboard which says “This Property Belongs to ATN Bangla”, Salman F. Rahman being a relative to the actual owner of the building got involved in the case to support his family member, and that was the beginning of a series of ATN Bangla reports against both Salman F. Rahman and BEXIMCO. As similar sort of allegations have come forward about Prothom Alo and Daily Star for a number of times before, we cannot mark someone to be completely without logic if he says a same affair might have taken place between Salman F. Rahman and Prothom Alo & Daily Star. More importantly, according to Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam’s claim that they are committed to present substantial news to their readers, Prothom Alo and Daily Star were supposed to carry out at least a follow-up of the Gulshan Avenue flap, which they eventually didn’t do. So Prothom Alo and Daily Star’s general claim having ‘social responsibilities’ eventually becomes arguable.
I just can put a shortlist of their assistances. Incidentally and now I feel it was most unfortunate that it were Prothom Alo and Daily Star who gave me the first details of the 1/11 coup d’état. However as the 1/11 regime accommodate some tasks in their plans those where necessary for the harmonious run of a state, distinctive parts of their plans can be marked as they were not completely malicious. These not-malicious plans are often chosen to state that “1/11 also did some good things”. These ‘good things’ were given good coverage by Prothom Alo and Daily Star which I don’t think to be disappointing, and to some extent I was not suspecting about their roles or any of its appeared-to-be-association with the 1/11 government till those moments. But after the 1/11 government was on its political plans like minus-1/2, gagging major parties, creating king’s factions in name of reformists, forcing media to filter presentations, torturing journalists, politicians, teachers, students etc., I attentively noticed that Prothom Alo and Daily Star were being at very effective assistance where number of stories were being made to help the government have a convinced group of people and an apparent public support to their position completely against the ongoing political system. Following this notice, my delivery boy was told that no Prothom Alo and Daily Star should be seen in my house any further. Yes, I subscribed both and I unsubscribed both.
Now, one can ask if I have made detached from two newspapers. Well I haven’t been detached. When any important issue takes place and becomes attention of the majority media, I become curious about what role Prothom Alo & Daily Star are playing and I get in touch with their online edition. In fact their apparent apathy on the grab attempt on that Gulshan Avenue residential building came by my eyes when I specially checked that what’ve been their remark about allegation on their partial media partner (as ATN Bangla and Daily Star works together online in some cases) ATN Bangla in that illegal operation.
Anyways, about the beginning of 1/11, their reports really gave me and most of their readers an idea that the 10 January late night at Bangabhaban was really a scene full of merriness where D. Iajuddin Ahmed laterally handed over the state-running scepter to hands of the then military chief Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed. In fact the book written by Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed almost echoed what was reported by those newspapers on January 11, 2007. These ‘truths’ started being differed after other officials of Bangabhaban who were present during the overthrow and who were notable ‘non-military’, started to open mouths. Claims of the then Press Secretary of the President hint that Bangabhaban that night was an exact stereotype of how a presidential palace becomes amid a coup d’état; military officials in every rooms, regular house officials with faces like they were looking at ghosts, raiding military officials threatening Bangabhaban officials, officials getting to the President with prepared papers and having them signed etc. As the topic Press Secretary has come, I must mention that Syed Fahim Munaim, who was chosen as the Press Secretary to Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, was a Daily Star official prior to his appointment to the Chief Advisor’s office.
Incidentally the political targets of the 1/11 regime have been interesting matches with Prothom Alo and Daily Star targets to be defamed with series reports, substantial or insubstantial. Now those newspapers can defend this that the matches have been coincidental or they were simply doing the duties of ideal journalists. But we, the people who read those (at least once have read) newspapers, have opportunities of their analysis and do know that there exists a term called ‘yellow journalism’, won’t like to be fed and satisfied with these fancy ‘social responsibility’ explanations. People will play with the facts. And the claim that Prothom Alo and Daily Star were party to the promotion of unconstitutional and unlawful regime does have facts to back.
At least this has to be appreciated that Salman F. Rahman stood vocal against Prothom Alo and Daily Star despite many of their targets simply had things forgone or dealt by other means. I will expect that the information that Rahman provided have been substantial. For sake of better acceptability of the claims Salman F. Rahman has made, I will suggest that the matter should be taken to the court as soon as possible so that there can be set an exemplary judicial action against Prothom Alo and Daily Star, if Rahman’s claims are found evident. I also wish courage to the honorable judges that before ensuring justice against the practice of any illegitimate journalism, they will overcome the uneasiness of possibilities that they also can become suitable targets of Prothom Alo and Daily Star.
M. Tawsif Salam
19 July, 2009, Dhaka
Dr. Dipu Moni’s remark about Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty that he breached a diplomat’s code of conduct was not her first remark to be considered as a flap. She received spectacular criticisms after forgoing an Indian journalist who marked Bangladesh as a ‘buffer state’ in a press conference presided by her. People from the top brass of present Awami League government power structure have set some more examples of being kind to forgo a couple of must-protest commentaries of people associated with India. The most recent one was Dipu Moni’s presence in a seminar where Indian High Commissioner added the adjective ‘so-called’ while naming Bangladeshi experts, especially those who are critical to India’s unpopular Tipaimukh dam. After the Chakravarty’s flawless conduct, BNP’s lawmaker Adv. Mahbubuddin Khokon, who is also BNP’s sole representative to the parliamentary body for foreign affairs, demanded immediate expulsion of the rowdy diplomat.
Following Khokon’s demand, Dr. Dipu Moni’s popular remark about Chakravarty’s breaching the code of conduct was almost covering up the controversy that she caused by her silence against humiliation of Bangladesh. Now, it’s to be noted that Dr. Dipu Moni became a part of several events where she received criticisms by either her humiliating silence, or her apparent incompetence to put thrashing replies against what it’s been insulting remark against Bangladesh; and throughout all these Awami League’s attention to her activities never became public. But at a certain point Awami League top brass became really tensed about her statements and took no time to differ what she told about the rowdy diplomat. After no time from Dr. Dipu Moni became coldly vocal about Chakravarty’s rowdiness, Awami League’s spokesperson and the Minister of Local Government and Cooperatives Syed Ashraful Islam said that he at no point thinks that Chakravarty has breached a diplomat’s code of conduct.
The Tipaimukh Dam issue has seen more passes than sometimes satirically presented Dutch ‘total football’ could ever have produced or suggested. We don’t know who were midfielders, attackers or defenders, but the passes have been subsequently carried out by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Water Resources, and Environment & Forest, without much of the senses of their particular roles. Whenever the responsible individuals received stern quizzes about the issue, they either kept passing it to other offices, or made remarks those are solely enough to humiliate the sovereignty of a nation.
The Minister of Commerce Col. Faruk Khan, who in accordance with his official functions wasn’t supposed to be concerned with the issue, claimed all of a sudden that the Bangladeshi experts who are being critical to Tipaimukh issue don’t know anything. Following his statement, Chakravarty made two subsequent comments; one is that the protest against Tipaimukh issue was politically ill-motivated, and the other is no laws on earth could bar India from building Tipaimukh dam. Quoting Chakravarty, Minister of Communication Abul Hossain also told the protest against Tipaimukh dam is insubstantial. Minister of Water Resources Ramesh Sen, who did something more serious than a quotation, told that if there is any negative impact of Tipaimukh dam, Bangladesh should concede the damages at least for sake of the alliance with her greater neighbor.
As it has been told earlier, this series of comments is solely enough to humiliate the sovereignty of a nation. The present government as well as the ruling party, and most importantly Syed Ashraful Islam who was in a hurry to reestablish the submissiveness of his government to the Indian authority by differing Dr. Dipu Moni’s cold protest within hours, should get the note that friendship cannot be imposed. You just cannot pick up a group of people and ask them to recite “Bangladesh and India are friends”, who already are holding newspapers with headlines of Bangladeshi frontier population body-counts to the BSF bullets. Or, you cannot just ask people to accept long-lasting damages just for sake of alliance with a nation which appoints ‘so-called’ diplomats to meddle in our internal politics and humiliate our sovereignty.
People won’t accept speeches from a minister like Ramesh Sen hints to sacrifice Bangladeshi resources for sake of India’s friendship, or of lawmakers like Abdur Razzaq states Bangladesh can make up her desertification by importing Tipaimukh produced power; hence Bangladesh can accept both her desertification and Indian bills just to have power produced in Tipaimukh. These comments hint their loyalties being to something else than the sovereignty of Bangladesh.
This post has also been published at Weekly Economic Times, 26 July, 2009 issue.