Mahmudnama or freedom of nonsense

Sultan Mohammed Zakaria

Sultan Mohammed Zakaria


Photo: Freedom of Speech from sodahead.com.

Mr Mahmudur Rahman, as a columnist, was ok so far the concept of freedom of expression goes. But as an Editor I think he was too unqualified to be so. Because as media is considered as the fourth column of a state, it imposes greater responsibilities on one’s shoulder. Therefore, as a columnist when you prefer writing trash or rubbish it has little significance but as an Editor of a national daily you cannot enjoy that much freedom, because you are bound by some laws, principles and conventions.

I followed almost every issue of the Daily Amar Desh (on internet) during his editorship. To me it was of utter frustrating when I saw him taking side of militants on a several occasion (when almost every paper reported any arrest of militants, his one tried to cast a doubt on it by creating confusion that the innocents were being harassed because they were muslims), taking side of the killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (when the final judgement came out and the killers were hanged, he deliberately published news by justifying the killing of Sheikh Mujib hence, to me, took side of the killers), supported fundamentalists and militants, and tried to inflict division within society based on religious belief, also spread absurd xenophobia (with his trade-mark India-phobia) among certain quarters. Now is the question, how much you should allow to an Editor? What is the bottom line for an editor? How much he can go? Another dubious news was the Banner Headline of the corruption allegation against the Prime Minister’s son and the Energy Advisor without reliable sources which went totally against the spirit of independent news media (you cannot simply put your banner headline implicating the Prime Minister based on unknown (inexistent) sources). That is something outrageous. Even in the first world, you cannot do this rubbish. I am not saying that PM or her son cannot resort to corruption. If you have reliable information (even with a slightest degree), I would say you may go with it. But publishing news with such a magnanimity without having any sort of reliable sources which can be verified independently, shouldn’t have a free pass at all. Regarding the contempt of court, based on which he has been jailed, same goes here. I saw him generalising everything from a narrow angle and perspective. Read the headline: “Chembar Judge manei sarkar pokkhe stay” and “Shadhin bichar bivager name tamasha”. Read carefully both of the headline. First one renders that whatever cases put before the ChamberJudge, it means stay (on the part of the govt.). It was totally stupid. If you sample the Chamber Judge’s decision during the last one year you ratio would not cross 50% I bet. Another headline was self-explanatory that what he wrote was from his own narrow point of view and with too generalized way. If an editor hasn’t have this little common sense, how can he term him an editor? He has little common sense. And with this little he wants to be a big! Both the headlines are too generalised. I can give you hundreds of such examples. But it is of no use to prove an ‘idiot’ a further idiot.

I think we all have to understand that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of nonsense. Your freedom ends where my freedom begins. This is the simple math for freedom of expression. Journalists used to sermon Executive, Legislature and Judiciary about their misuse of power, corruption, and misrule. But in Bangladesh you cannot imagine to what extent journalists resort to corruption and how rampantly they misuse their noble power. I had a chance to visit most of the countryside of Bangladesh and talk to local civil society people (during one of our research works). Astonishingly, we had a view (from our random sampling) that more than 90% of local journalists are corrupt and are associates of criminals and goons. Most of the electronic and print media journalists do not receive any remuneration (or if they do, very meager) from their appointing authority. When we talked to them they asserted that their authority told them to utilize their ID Cards (that was all what those authority gave to them) (you know what it means). Only a few (very few) pay their correspondences regularly and adequately.

I am giving this scenario to let you know that Journalists are not considered as saints or event good fellows to follow at the local level. So the myth will not work here.

I cannot support arresting or harassing a person for expressing his opinion. But one should not also be allowed to do/speak whatever he wants to which in turns infringe others’ rights as well, thus he cannot escape liability of spreading hatred among people (sometimes by telling lies) and creating danger for the greater mass. To protect the society, Law has its inbuilt ‘Incapacitation’ measure in its armory which acts as a ‘Deterrence’ against the evils acts (including intentions and thoughts) of any particular person ..


6 Responses to “Mahmudnama or freedom of nonsense”

  1. Khondkar A Saleque

    Mahmud was my BUET Chemical Enginnering batchmate, Titas Gas Colleaugue.We shared same house in Middle Bashabo at the start of our Titas Gas Collegue in late seventies. Later I moved out of the house for pesonal reasons.We reamined friends .He left Titas , changed several jobs ,Married daughter of an industrialist.We met quiet often and specially when our Non Resident Bangladeshis visted.In 2003/2004 he was executive Chairman BOI I was Director 9Operation). I wused to a sports writer since 1972. Mahmud never had any interest in journalism.We used to discuss Gas and Energy situation several times. He was chief guest in a program in our Energy Professional association. In 2005 when he becmae Energy Adb visor to PM I was one who briefed him in the ministry. Still after few days he saw me out of Job. Mahmmood always had high opinion about him and had total disrespect for politicains and beauracrats.He started writting column in Jamat leaning paper and suddenly became a religious thinker.He had no respect for Bangabandhu, liberation war or Awamai League in any case.During 4 party allaiance rule he thrived on his close link with Tareq and Babar.

    After 1/11 he tried to mastermind election manipulation. He took over Amar Desh and suddenly overnight became Editor of a newspapaer.

    We are not sure about all allegations being brought against him. He may be a successful business administrator but as Energy Professional I will never consider him an energy expert. As a long time sports and energy jourlaist will never consider him a journalist or editor and as a friend will term him unrelaable and trecherous.

  2. Hassan Bipul

    Loved the way you discussed the issue. I was, in fact, waiting for such an article about Mahmudur. An article that would discuss the issue in a logical manner. Thank you very much.

  3. S.RAHMAN

    Mahmudur Rahman is a reactonary, fundamentalist and a person of low intelect.He rediclues our minority and people perception is that he is a hidden jamati.
    No one has any right to disrespect judicary, otherwise last resort of judgement will be destroy.

  4. Dhrubo

    You Sir have just displayed total ignorance about a fundamental aspect of democracy. “Freedom of Speech” cannot be selective. That kind of backward thinking is far more dangerous than those “fundamentalists” that you think you’re so much better than.
    We don’t care who Mahmudur Rahman is because he has the same characteristics and intelligence of those people in the government. If people in positions like the Home Minister and Prime Minister can spend their days babbling in petty Hindi soap opera style feuds, then an Editor of a newspaper can talk about whatever the hell he wants.
    And you misrepresent the issue by isolating Rahman’s case as an unique event. When a Bangladeshi expat wrote in the New Age denouncing the reception of Tony Blair(a man who is hated around the world) into the country, our “freedom loving” leader condemned the article. When there was an article about the matter of Mahmudur Rahman right to free speech in Prothom Alo, there were signboards in the city by Awami League supporters demanding that the writer be hanged.
    This brainwashed nation is being brainwashed to a whole new level. And people like you are the reason no one can do anything about it.

  5. moshfiq

    i feel really disappointed reading the head line on which many learned person give their opinion.i differ with them and i think he has the courage to speak what he believes.most of us select to go towards the wave but there is some one like mahmudur rahman who can swime against.i dont know what he write is absolutely right or wrong if its wrong he can be questioned but not such a way what we see in the name of remand.its not democratic.rulling politicians should have the patient and courrage to fight with him with pen as he did.but they didnt rather they expressed and hattred which make us to remind those saying -every one keep quite,might is the only right,absolute power corrupts absolutely……………

  6. Sultan Mohammed Zakaria

    Mr Dhrubo, if I have to accept your version of democratic principle that freedom of speech is not selective, then in the same manner you have to accept that the rights of individuals from being infringed by false propaganda in the name of freedom of speech is also to be protected. You are right that freedom is not selective but we often forget the other core principle of a democratic society that “your freedom ends where it begins to infringe on mine”… Now you decide whether many of Mr Mahmudur Rahman’s partisan views and yellow journalism infringed others’ rights…

    Mr Moshfiq, the idea of swimming against the wave should not be a bad one unless you prefer wrong destination. What is Mahmudur Rahman’s wrong destination will be crystal clear if you read till the end. Although what is right or wrong is a subjective question, but when a people goes reckless to stand for some bad guys, his version of courage and truth will always be questioned. You are telling Mr Mahmudur Rahman has the courage to speak out. Now tell me, can you find an example this courageous fellow spoke out for minority rights, women’s rights or the rights of other disadvantageous people ever? As we all know he was awarded an executive post during the last BNP-Jamaat regime only because he was the son-in-law of a ruling elite who was pretty close to the power coterie. Before that, did you know who was this Mahmudur Rahman? No way. Because he has never been a part of any social, political or civil society activities; or written anything to advocate the people’s rights. He has never been the courageous fellow you are trying to portray who stood for rights of other people in his entire life other than enjoying a pure personal and material one. Now after being awarded with the executive post, he felt obliged to serve his political masters. Only after 2006 when Begum Zia and her cronies were detained for corruption charges, he came out as the brave man ever to serve these corrupt crooks, started writing column in the dailies to advocate madam Zia and her corrupt sons. A person who never uttered a word for rights of people soon became a man of truth to you only because he is serving Begum Zia’s political interests! Still, what he and his newspaper is doing is simply yellow journalism telling everything the present government is doing bad and for selling out national interests, contrarily Begum Zia and her cronies are saints and it is imperative for the people to bring them back to power. What shall you call it? A thrust for power? To me, Mahmudur Rahman is just waiting to be awarded for another executive post. This is his so-called ‘fight-for-truth’.

    However, thank you both for taking time to read my piece.

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