Courtesy costs nothing: In context to recent unpleasant media story
Dr. Forqan Uddin Ahmed
Former Deputy Director General
Bangladesh Ansar VDP & Writer, Columnist and Researcher.
“Courtesy costs nothing but it buys everything” is a wise saying. Today it is absent in many cases. This saying brings harmony and good relationships among the institutions, parties, stakeholders and policy makers and above all in many citizens’ responsibilities. This is a good quality of mankind. By virtue of these qualities one can win the heart of any person. By it, grievances are removed; mental pressure and other stresses are released. Any opponent gets pleasure and a positive mind set is established. This is not a narration of a proverb. I am going to give an explanation of a media story in the top administration centre like secretariat. We all know that a mishap occurred in health ministry with one journalist Rozina Islam. This happened only for complexes and ego problems. This could not happen if responsible people are ego free. Responsible person cannot do it. Responsible people tackle things with sense and responsibilities. Only fair treatment promotes responsible journalism as well as responsible administration.
Media is the fourth pillar of a democratic state. Every government in the country talks about freedom of the media and security of media workers. It is amazing that very often the reality and truth is hampered and good work environment is demolished for whimsical decisions and behavior. Sometime realities are lost behind the shade of absurdity. Sometimes journalists are being physically attacked, sometimes being victimized. Every government is committed to the development of the media as an industry and to the protection of the rights of journalists. But no rule of journalist protection is yet to be introduced. Very often, we see journalists are tortured and harassed by administrative authority on issues, reports and sometimes for nothing. Sometimes we see the missing news of journalist. At times they are kidnapped and killed but what are wrongs with journalism. We know it is professions were people’s rights are established through the pen writings of the journalists. The journalist publishes views and news of society. They give the updated pen pictures of the stories that happen in and around of the nation. They highlight the issues through appreciations and people are able to get the real reports behind every story. Moreover, the government machineries get benefit out of it. In the morning, people waits for the daily reports and creates storm over a cup of tea in a tea stall. So if journalists are abused, what will be the positions of other ordinary people? Again question arises, is media a counter part of government activities?
On 17th May one Rozina Islam, a senior reporter of Prothom Alo had to face extreme harassment and suffering by some health ministry staffs. This is a sad incident and an administrative bad precedent in the work place like secretariat. This is indeed a big threat for free journalism. Rozina Islam is blamed for stealing the physical documents from a room of junior officer. It is a case of exaggeration, because one reporter cannot act like an informer and cannot do so. The situation could be tackled peacefully. On demand of any data situation may not turn to a chaos. Perhaps, there arose a debate or argument on demand for any data or information. Nobody came forward to settle the chaos. Rather it was made clumsy and critical. Lastly charges of theft brought against Rozina Islam and handed over to Shahbagh Police after being harassed for long five to six hours. This type of irresponsible job and the act of foolishness spread all over the world, where there were strong criticisms of media activist harassment. This was a bad precedence for which we were defamed as a nation.
Charges were brought against Journalist Rozina Islam by Official Secrets Act 1923 of British regime. How this act will be applicable against Rozina, a journalist. Normally it is applicable in case of a spy who engages in spying of states. Again for act of such spying and stealing the state documents, one can be accused of. The British made this rule for their interests. The colonial ruler did it for their own safety. It was appropriate for that time. Today that law cannot be enforced. At present, this rule should be reviewed or amended which breaks the fundamental rights of any person. The British people are very much careful about the fundamental rights which go against humanity. “What is a sport to the cat is death to the rat”. This is hypocrisy in a sense that brings ruin and cannot bring peace. This is simply a double standard, which the British ruler did 200 years before. Why shall we exercise it today in a civilized world and as citizens of Democratic independent country? Our father of nation always spoke for humanity and people’s rights. So the idea of institutionalizing fundamental rights and accordingly it was enshrined in our sacred constitution. Journalists are not above the law. The work of the media is to build a bridge between the people, the government and politics. For these reasons, the achievements of Bangladesh may be questioned. The government believes in the freedom of the media.
Through these, the path of journalism has been continuously narrowed. Rozina Islam has been assaulted. Before that many journalists have been killed, kidnapped and mercilessly beaten by miscreants. Even this kind of indecent acts had been done by government officials. This is not a single case. There are other cases which also turned to social viral. Under these circumstances journalists are opposing laws for amendment. Again people also see a wrong message on such incidents which led to misconception on judiciary and rule of law.
In this context we need to narrate a few words on the role of law and justice. In the civilized world human life without law cannot be conceived of and law is the instrument of social order. The law is so intimately connected with society that it cannot be isolated from life in the society. It is not only the foundation of the society but also is an index of the civilization. “Rule of law and Justice” on the face of it appears to be very simple and plain but the area covered by it is very wide and all pervasive. The word law and Justice are though not synonymous but corollary and attribute to each other. One cannot conceive of justice without haying law to guide human conduct and at the same time the law will be meaningless if there is no human being forming the society. The incident in the Secretariat is the contrast to the above explanation for both media people and government servants. Many a time, there is mal-treatment out of mistake and carelessness. Sometimes this takes place from temperament and from position of power. So power should not be misused by the person sitting in a responsible position.
Journalists are called the watchdog of public interest. The journalist is, after all, an agent of social change. His work is deeply concerned with the welfare of all the members of all the societies regardless of caste, creed or religion, political affiliation or economic persuasion. Again, I should mention that if the press freedom is unbridled and the reporting is not monitored; it can bring more harm than welfare to the people and country concerned. There are risks and challenges in the life of the journalists. Their journey to the society is thorny and challenging. Many a time, for facts and findings of any incident, the journalists have to face very critical situations from which they cannot escape death. If journalists are victimized frequently, how they will keep up the dignity and credit of this profession. So, in order to save and flourish this profession, the government must be cordial for the protection of journalists and their professionalism.