It is embarrassing to have to point out factual errors in what a Prime Minister says. It is more embarrassing when the PM herself, while making the error, hints of wrongdoing by this newspaper in the press conference on Wednesday “as to how a particular daily newspaper could publish the letter sent to Anti-Corruption Commission before the Commission, the finance ministry or I got it”. She then asked the journalists to “…please make an inquiry to see if there is any ill motive or purpose behind it”. She was referring to the letter, dated 9 January 2013, sent to the ACC by Luis Moreno Ocampo, chief of the World Bank's external panel, following his teams visit to Dhaka.
This newspaper was the only one to get a copy of the letter and publish in full. So it is obvious that she meant it to be us. She also said, “There was an understanding between the external panel and the Anti-Corruption Commission that nothing about the investigation would be disclosed.”
According to the press briefing held on 14 January 2013, by ACC Commissioner Mohammed Shahabuddin, “The Commission received this letter three days back”. It means that ACC got the letter on 11 January and we published it on 15 January, along with the contents of what the ACC commissioner said. So the PM's claim that we published the letter before the ACC got it is not factually correct. The ACC must have sent copies of the letter to the finance ministry and the PMO immediately. If she or the finance minister were unaware of it then they should blame their respective officers and not us.
It is in the nature of governments (all governments, and in all democracies) to shut out all negative information and only reveal those that put them in a favourable light.
Contrarily, it is in the nature of the media to dig out what a government wants to hide and inform the people of everything that is of public interest. That is precisely what we did. Everything about the Padma bridge project is of public interest and it is our sacred duty to inform the public about it. We promise to continue to do so.
There is no motive here, just commitment to public interest. Every newspaper worth its name would have published this letter if they had got it. It is to the credit of The Daily Star reporter that he could do so. It is called a “scoop” in media parlance, and only very competent, hardworking and professional reporters can do it, and the people of Bangladesh are the wise for it, for they know the truth.
If we had not done our job then only the ACC version that the “WB Panel is happy with our work” would have been known. The truth, as we know, is otherwise. We served the truth, and truth often hurts.
That is why media is always very unpopular with the “Power that be”.