An editor of one of Bangladesh’s most respected newspapers has sparked an uproar by admitting that eight years ago, he published unsubstantiated reports alleging corruption by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, then in the opposition. He says the military fed him the information and pressured him to print it, but it is the journalist who is feeling the heat more than the country’s long-powerful armed forces.
The admission by Editor Mahfuz Anam of the English-language Daily Star raises questions of whether Bangladesh can escape the influence of its long-powerful military, which has taken over the country twice since Bangladesh gained independence in 1971.
The military has loomed large over Bangladeshi politics, and over the lives of both Hasina and her main rival, opposition leader Khaleda Zia.
Between 2006 and 2008, the military began using the nation’s media to tear the two women down, Anam and other newspaper editors said. Anam said on a TV talk show that acquiescing to the military was the “biggest mistake” of his professional life.
His confession quickly prompted lawmakers in Hasina’s party to demand his paper be closed, with some filing police charges accusing Anam of sedition and defamation. But other editors have since said Anam was not the only one pressured by the military to report stories against political leaders without adequately vetting the allegations.
“We also published such reports, it’s not that Mahfuz Anam did it alone,” Bhorer Kagoj daily editor Shyamal Dutta said on another TV talk show. At the time, he said, editors felt that they had no choice but to go with the will of the military. Read More