The week of April 20th-26th, 2008 will not be remembered as the Daily Star’s finest. Now, I know there are some of you who never thought much of this paper, and I am not just referring to fringe elements. But the truth is that the Daily Star once did its job, that of holding government accountable and creating a space where government actions could be debated. It gave up that job a few months after 1/11 and this particular week of April it reached its lowest point yet.
The food price crisis is no doubt one of the most important issues for Bangladesh. Many solutions are floated, and the media as a whole is doing the nation a service by creating this marketplace of ideas. Recent Daily Star op-eds reflect this, in the number of editorial and op-ed columns they dedicate to this particular crisis. Which is laudable. However, a sudden flurry – three in the space of a week –of recent Daily Star op-eds seem to be focusing on the “potato solution” at the expense of other policy options (links at the end, feel free to add any I’ve missed) or even other topics.
First, let’s see what other topics they could have devoted those column inches to. How about the looming gas shortage? One piece in the same period from the ever reliable Abdul Bayes. How about the killings of Bangladeshis at the border by the BSF, which is a chronic problem? No pieces as usual.
Among the many solutions of the current food crisis, one is undoubtedly a change in the food habits of the people of this country. I would just like to get some acknowledgement from the Daily Star editorial team that – when compared with Open-Market Sales (short-term), currency devaluation (short-term)and increasing agricultural productivity (long-term) – this solution is also the hardest one to implement and the most ethically problematic.
In light of the problematic nature of this particular option, I would like to ask them why they have devoted as many as three op-eds in the space of a week to the glories of the potato, especially when the latter two are more or less superfluous.
Lastly, I would like to humbly suggest that they are abusing the public trust that they have earned during the last 10+ years.
The reason behind the sudden potato fascination is, of course, obvious. The same reason that “Prothom Bangladesh Amar Shesh Bangladesh” is played right after the National Anthem during BNP rule. The same reason that the March 7th Speech got played on BTV after AL’s ’96 win, but not on March 7th ‘91-‘96 or ‘01-‘06. The same reason why Bangladesh Betar became “Radio Bangladesh (sic)” in the middle. Nothing but the subservience of Reason and Truth before Power. And some good old spineless toshamodgiri. The timing speaks volumes.
People – from any walk of life – no longer trust BTV and Bangladesh Betar.
Is the Daily Star headed the same way?
(Methodological note: I have deliberately focused on the op-ed space because that is where the potato frenzy is at its height. While I am sure they have covered the gas crisis in the business section and the BSF killing in the news section, the editorial and “point-counterpoint” sections are reliable indicators as to what the editorial team thinks is important news. Clearly, potatoes were more important than gas crisis or Bangladeshis dying during this particular week!)