Thursday, February 12, 2009

"We know people want martial law, but we can't print that!"

I remember, back in the late '90s, I submitted an article to the Daily Star, the last line of which Mahfuz Anam refused to publish – and I refused to alter. His sub-editor, Modon Shahu, called me once day and urged me to change the line.

He chuckled and said: "We know people want martial law, but we can't print that!"
My piece finally appeared, but – lo and behold! – when I opened the paper, I did a double-take: instead of my last line

"We can either have democracy or safety, but not both";

instead of this last line, the wise Mahfuz Anam or one of his lackeys printed the final paragraph in the picture scanned from the paper above.

Pause and ponder the implications of the sub-editor's statement and the self-censorship of the Daily Star (we were taught that only military rulers imposed censorship!).

The battle-cry of The Daily Star is "Committed to the People's Right to Know"; also, "Journalism Without Fear or Favour". Add "Not" before the first, and change "Without" to "With" in the second shibboleth, and you have an accurate idea of the newspaper's ethos.

When a newspaper knows what people want, and what they are saying, it is its duty to report that. Instead, we have a so-called newspaper in cahoots with western donors and NGOs, trying to force-feed democracy down our collective throat.

Well, we finally regurgitated on January 11, 2007 – the day democracy ended: the conclusion of a sixteen-year-old nightmare. But the nightmare has been resumed, for it seems that without a certain politician, the daughter of a certain father, in short, without a certain dynasty, there can be no democracy in Bangladesh.

And that's not a democracy, but a caricature.

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