IT IS sometimes difficult to express to the public what people actually feel. This may be because of the fear that what writers want to say may not be accepted by a group of readers and the writers may be under the threat of obnoxious vilification from them. When writers write for a newspaper, they expect a protection umbrella from the newspaper concerned and from society as a whole. When editors find that the expected protection and support are dubious, they become conservative and withhold the publication.
Newspapers have to follow an over-all journalistic standard of the time. Whether someone is writing against the universally accepted norms, whether the ideas expressed are contributory to the attitude detrimental to peace and prosperity, whether the piece of writing is inciting any religious debate, whether the ideas contained in it is ultra vires legal provisions, whether the thoughts and ideas are from a biased mental condition and whether the data and figures cited are accurate are a number of valid points for special scrutiny by newspaper editors.
But fulfilling the demand of all the above criteria does not guarantee the publication of articles. There are many other factors coming up behind the scenes why a piece of good writing may not be considered for printing.
The first underhand speculations of some newspapers are to maintain a line of thoughts that converge towards a phantom philosophy. Some have political agenda, either pro-government or anti-government. Some have cultural agenda, such as Islamic or secular. In some newspapers, the editorial board is found to patronise ideas for and against any country. For example, in some cases, you cannot be certain about your articles being published if it is critical of the Teesta or Ganges water sharing or the attitude of certain countries to the Rohingya problem, however thought-provoking and knowledge-banking tenet they may excel in.
Some newspapers with a tilt for the government could nurture a mentality that they are the government’s representative in the journalism sector or they think it safer to do what the government likes. If articles are submitted to editors of such newspapers, their main point of scrutiny is whether the write-up has anything that goes against the government this way or that way. You have little scope to criticise government projects and policies in those newspapers. The same is the case with a number of newspapers that appear critical of the government which will give you little scope to praise the government’s good policies.
On top of all such issues about publication in newspapers, writers and editors have a common menace while making ideas public. This is the fear of being persecuted by some vested interests. Persecution against writers is as old as the start of the art of writing. But there remains the question: what degree of persecution is one ready to digest? Threat to life is a very pertinent cause for withdrawing articles from publishing. Editors are to, moreover, think twice before publishing anything that touches an issue concerning a sensitive group. People are now expressing their views against many powerful individuals in connection with casino affairs. This has been possible because the government itself has started arresting the individuals. If the government action were not in place, it would be almost impossible for average writers, except for a few dauntless ones, to say anything against them or their organisations.
It is not expected that writers and editors, until and unless they violate the laws of the land, are put into a situation where any sort of fear exists. If people have anything to say against the opinions expressed on the media, they can write or resort to any other conventional course of legal action. Any sort of off-the-track persecution is an indication that we are moving in the reverse direction. We expect that both the government and civil society should come forward to ensure the free flow of thoughts and ideas to ensure a growth in the socio-cultural development of the nation.
Gazi Mizanur Rahman, a former civil servant, is a writer.
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