Coming down heavily on The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam for publishing DGFI-supplied reports during the army-led caretaker government, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said he should quit after his confession if has a little bit of self-dignity.
"This editor has confessed to making a mistake by publishing those DGFI-supplied reports, but people, Awami League leaders and activists, the business community, students and teachers and me and my family had to pay the price for that mistake. Why didn't he show the courage by resigning? If he has the guts then he should resign," she said.
The Prime Minister was addressing a discussion meeting organised by Awami League marking Amar Ekushey and International Mother Language Day at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre (BICC) in the city.
She made the comments amid widespread discussions and a flurry of cases filed against The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam who recently admitted to running such reports during the army-backed caretaker government regime.
Hasina said the editors of certain newspapers tried desperately to brand her as a corrupt politician.
"Two newspapers published reports prepared by the army's intelligence wing to remove me and (BNP chief) Khaleda Zia from politics forever."
"Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam tried to brand me as corrupt. He's even admitted that."
"What is his relationship like with the DGFI? Like a good boy he would publish word for word whatever they gave him," she said about Anam. "They will face justice just like the war criminals."
"The truth never stays buried. I'll tell Mahfuz Anam this - you've tried a lot. Your father-like World Bank didn't even succeed in making me look corrupt. And you ..."
"The head of the government will run the country, not the DGFI," she said, addressing those accused of plotting against politicians in the run-up to Jan 11 changeovers in 2007.
Hasina wanted to know why those news items provided by the DGFI were published. "A newspaper like The Daily Star should carry the news as supplied by the DGFI? Who is that mad there to believe that? The Daily Star is very much choosy about English. Does it prove that DGFI people are more knowledgeable than The Daily Star," she wondered.
She recalled a recent incident in the BBC which carried false news items on British MPs and Ministers. "When the report was found false, the BBC offered apology and the people involved in that story all resigned," she said.
Hasina said what the editor has so far written with the pretence of honesty all are fraudulences and untrue which were aimed at destroying the country.
Hasina said the truth cannot be long hidden as it will ultimately surface. "The Daily Star editor's original face has got exposed," she said.
In the wake of the recent confession of The Daily Star editor, the Prime Minister asked some questions - "What is the fearless journalism? What was his relationship with DGFI men Brig Amin and Bari? Was he sold out to them and for that he published all what they supplied! Were the two editors involved in the conspiracy of the minus-two formula? "Which one is true? If you have the courage then admit!"
But she mentioned neither the name of another editor nor that of another other than the Daily Star editor.
In a recent talk-show, Mahfuz Anam admitted that running reports on Awami League President Sheikh Hasina based on information provided by DGFI without any scrutiny was his biggest mistake in his editorial judgement.
Hasina also said if the editor confesses to publishing or writing those reports out of fear then he cannot do fearless journalism. "I don't have anything to say if you (Anam) were sold out and wrote on the basis of (your) relations," she said.
The Prime Minister also said if the editors were involved in the conspiracy of prolonging their (then military-backed govt) power by killing democracy, obstructing the democratic rights of people then you will be tried one day like the trial of war criminals. "Which path will you choose?" she asked.
Hasina recalled that Mahfuz Anam's hectic effort was there to prove her corrupt, but the fact is that the World Bank even could not prove that.
The Prime Minister also sharply criticised those demanding withdrawal of the cases filed against the Daily Star editor.
She recalled the horrible days during the caretaker government when her house was searched twice without any search warrant. "They even pushed down my ill husband on the floor? we didn't say anything about those who instigated it."
The Prime Minister asked those who demand the withdrawal of cases to feel the pain of the solitary confinement she suffered for 11 months, when she was not even allowed to meet her relatives during the Eid time.
Praising those Awami League leaders who raised their voice against the false news of The Daily Star, she regretted that many leaders are still mum. "Why there is so fear just to tell the truth," she asked.
Hasina also questioned about the contributions of Mahfuz Anam to the Liberation War. "We were also university students?our academic activities were hampered due to the Liberation War, but that editor went to Pakistan (then West Pakistan) so that his study does not get hampered."
She also said he, however, went to Kolkata and got assigned to write materials in English as he knows a bit of English. "And this is his Liberation War and this is how he is a freedom fighter."
Chaired by Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, the function was addressed by Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Public Administration Minister and AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, Joint Secretary General Mahbubul Alam Hanif, MP, Relief and Disaster Management Minister Mofazzal Hossain Chowdhury Maya, Jahangir Kabir Nanak, MP, Abu Sayeed Al Mahmud Swapan, MP, SM Kamal Hossain and Kamal Ahmed Mazumder, MP.
Awami League Publicity and Publication Secretary Dr Hasan Mahmud and Deputy Publicity and Publication Secretary Ashim Kumar Ukil conducted the discussion.
At the outset of the discussion, a one-minute silence was observed as a mark of respect to the memories of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, four national leaders, martyrs of the War of Liberation and Language Movement.