BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Wednesday said journalists in Bangladesh have long been practising self-censorship out of fear.
“More than 60 journalists left the country in fear of losing their lives while those who are there in the country can't write freely. I don’t blame them for it,” he said.
He made the remarks while speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Jatiya Press Club arranged by BNP’s national committee on celebrating the Golden Jubilee of the country’s independence, marking the shutdown of all newspapers except state-run four ones on 16 June 1975.
The BNP leader said, “They (journalists) have to exercise self-censorship because of the situation.”
The BNP leader said people have already seen how journalist Rozina Islam was tortured at the Secretariat.
Also read: ‘Black laws’ being used to ‘gag’ media: BNP
Fakhrul said elderly editor of the Daily Sangram Abul Asad and journalist leader Ruhul Amin Gazi have long been kept in jail while editors like Shafik Rehman and Mahmudur Rahman were forced to leave the country.
“Even, Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman is facing a murder case. Mahfuz Anam (The Daily Star Editor) has to move around the corridors of courts in every district in connection with over 100 cases. So, no one, be it leftist or rightist, is spared. It’s the strategy of the current government to suppress the entire nation,” he observed.
The BNP leader urged all to wake up and get ready for a united movement to get rid of the current situation. “The young generation must come forward. The freedom of the press, the security of the press workers and their release (from jail) all depend on the restoration of democracy. If democracy is not restored, then no one will be freed (from repressive acts).”
He alleged that Awami League does not want to see the existence of any opposition party in the country.
“Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has said it’s not possible to live together with BNP. He exposed their real trait and mentality through it. His comment has proved they don’t want any opposition party, forget about having a strong one,” Fakhrul observed.
He said BNP has been doing politics with the affection and support of people, not with the mercy of any party or individual.
Fakhrul alleged that Awami League has snatched people’s rights by 'destroying' democracy and the main spirit of the Liberation War.
Speaking at the programme, BNP standing committee member Mirza Abbas said the country is witnessing a process of depoliticisation. “We all must get united putting aside divisions to prevent it for the sake of the country’s independence and sovereignty.”
Another party standing committee member, Gayeshwar Chandra, said the freedom of journalists is now more important than the freedom of the press.
“Because the owners of the media have freedom as they do their business through joint ventures with the government. Sometimes the owners blackmail the government while sometimes the government blackmails the owners. But those who work in the media don’t have freedom. They have to be given freedom. I think it should be ensured in the constitution,” he said.
BNP standing committee member Nazrul Islam Khan said June 16 is the back day for newspapers in Bangladesh as the then government in 1975 shut all the newspapers, except four loyal to it.
He urged the journalists to raise their voice for the restoration of democracy and media freedom.