A group of citizens, including jurists, journalists, politicians, writers and educationists, on Saturday expressed concerns over the High Court’s summoning professor Asif Nazrul for giving a political analysis on a private television channel on March 12.
The High Court on March 15 directed Dhaka University’s law department teacher
Asif Nazrul to appear on March 22 to explain his critical analysis of the political events plagued by perpetual rivalries and bitterness.
The court said his statement was ‘likely to cause cracks in the law and order and democratic order of the country’.
Asif Nazrul in a TV talk show had expressed fear that forces like that of January 11, 2007 might emerge again if confrontational politics continued.
The citizens in the statement said that Asif Nazrul had been was writing on Bangladesh’s politics and legal affairs and giving statements on the issues in media for years and the apprehension he expressed in the televised talk-show on March 12 were voiced by many others, including politicians, in recent times.
‘We believe that voicing such concerns is not illogical against the backdrop of the politics of confrontation the major political parties practise now in the country,’ they noted.
The signatories to the statement are: adviser to a past caretaker government Hafizuddin Khan, Awami League leader Mahmudur Rahman Manna, jurists Shahdin Malik and Sara Hossain, Dhaka University professor Amina Mohsin, BRAC University professor Pias Karim, Gana Swasthya Kendra chairman Zafrullah Chowdhury, Bangladesh Jatiya Party chairman Andaleeve Rahman Partho, former AL leader Noor-e-Alam Siddique, economist Debapriya Bhattachariya, Shahnaj Huda, Shirin Haque, Sumaya Khair and journalists Syed Abul Maksud, Mizanur Rahman Khan, Nurul Kabir, Abu Sayeed Khan, Anjan Roy and Monir Haider.
The statement also said expressing concerns at the time of country’s political crisis was a constitution-recognised fundamental right of the people.
The High Court constitutionally should preserve the people’s fundamental rights, including the freedom of expression and should function as the safeguard against any threat to the people’s freedom of expression, the statement read.
It also said, ‘The High Court, on the contrary, issued a rule on Asif Nazrul, and asked the home secretary, inspector general of police and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner as to why sedition charges should not be brought against Nazrul for exercising his right to the freedom of expression.’
The citizens’ group said that they thought such step of the higher court was tantamount to a threat to the people’s freedom of expression, free-thinking and to mass media.
The statement said the civic group had also observed with concerns that the same bench of the High Court over the last couple of months had taken some steps which made ‘uncertain the process of exercising people’s fundamental rights, discharging their civic duties, and of people’s participation in building a democratic society.’
The statement also noted that the same bench had earlier issued rule on some of those who took part in TV talk shows asking them to appear before the court.
Referring to another rule issued by the same bench over the killing of journalist couple Sagar and Runi, the group said the journalist community had resolved not to abide by the court directives terming it an ‘obstacle’ to the freedom of the press.
‘We think the rule on Asif Nazrul is also a threat to the freedom of the press,’ the statement said.
‘Such continuous steps from the Supreme Court have called into question the role of the country’s judiciary as far as ensuring freedom of expression and free-media is concerned,’ the statement added.
‘We think such steps will thwart the path of constructive criticism against any government failing to practise democracy and implement its electoral pledges and will encourage government’s repressive measures,’ read the statement.
The group urged the chief justice to take necessary measures so that the country’s higher court played a sensitive and sympathetic role towards ensuring freedom of expression and of the press.