SANGSAD BHABAN: Prime Minister and Leader of the House Sheikh Hasina yesterday categorically said that there is freedom of speech in the country as the newspapers here are enjoying full freedom.
“But all concerned will have to be responsible to enjoy this freedom. However, freedom doesn’t mean to tarnish the rights of anybody,” she said while delivering her winding up speech in the 15th session of the 10th Parliament.
Citing the recent Amnesty International report about the existence of freedom of speech in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said: “I would like to clearly say that the country’s newspapers and electronic media are enjoying full freedom. There is also freedom of speech and person.”
The prime minister said if anybody wants to enjoy freedom, he or she will have to enjoy it with responsibility. “It’s the reality … I hope that everybody would remember it,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said there are 34 television channels and 750 daily newspapers in the country. “I would like to say those who published the report of Amnesty International that criticism and discussion are continuing randomly against us and this is being aired live. But nobody is obstructing this,” she said.
The prime minister said the newspapers are continuing their writings. “But anybody doing yellow journalism, disseminating false information and assassinating anybody’s character, then the victim has the right to protect himself/herself from it,” she said.
The Leader of the House said there are some elements in the county who always think that there is no freedom of speech in Bangladesh. “Once upon a time, these people thought that their value would increase if any abnormal situation is created in the country,” she said.
She said it’s the character of these people to tarnish the image of Bangladesh at the international level by making false allegations. “They always hope they could go to power if they bring false allegations against the country. Their desire won’t be fulfilled … that would not happen again in Bangladesh,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said they could get a flag and become someone if the country falls into an abnormal situation. “But in a democratic environment, the possibility of such scope is less. They have desire to go to power but they’ve not any ability to seek votes from the people,” she said.
The prime minister said many people tried to form party, but they didn’t get any response from the people.
Sheikh Hasina said if any journalist gives untrue information against a lawmaker or any person, then the MP or the person has the right to file a case or defamation suit. “But the person who gives untrue information thinks that he/she doesn’t commit any wrongdoing, will have to prove it … but he/she has no courage to do it as he/she is already doing yellow journalism,” she said.
While referring to the comments of the chief justice about the independence of judiciary, the prime minister said: “I don’t know how could he say that there is no rule of law and independence of judiciary in the country.”
Sheikh Hasina said as the Independence of judiciary exists, a period of 140 days was given in a case against a leader. “This time could not be given if I have such a mentality.”
She said in the same case writ was filed for 40 or 50 times and those were accepted. “So where independence of judiciary doesn’t exist? This didn’t happen if independence of judiciary doesn’t exist .. it’s a big example.”
The prime minister reiterated her call to the people of all strata to put up a resistance against terrorism, militancy and drugs.
In this connection, she said the BNP leader sheds crocodile tears when any terrorist and militant is arrested. “Where is the link between the militants and the BNP?,” she questioned and said that militancy emerged during the BNP rule.
About the recent flood in the haor areas, the prime minister said the government has slashed down interest rates of loans of the farmers by half in those areas and suspended realizing loans.
“There are all preparations from the government what are necessary to tackle the flood” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also highlighted the BNP-Jamaat atrocities in 2013, 2014 and 2015, saying that they killed 235 innocent people and 26 members of law enforcement agencies by unleashing petrol bomb attacks.
The prime minister also elaborated her government’s success in various fields including agriculture, education, healthcare and digitization.