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 ..