BANGLADESH AT 50: CAUGHT IN THE DEMOCRACY-DEVELOPMENT DILEMMA
Bangladesh has made significant economic progress in the last decade and half. The recent UN resolution marking Bangladesh’s graduation from Least Developed country to a developing one constitutes global recognition of her success. However, this economic success has created, what has been called a “democracy deficit”. Questions have been raised about the “watch dog” role of the parliament, independence of the judiciary, the autonomous functioning of such statutory bodies as the Anti-corruption commission, Human Rights Commission, the Information Commission, etc.
Is Bangladesh caught in the “democracy vs development” dilemma? The talk will examine the country’s economic growth vis a vis the functioning of some vital institutions that are expected to promote and protect democracy. It will discuss some of the recent laws that have been passed and see how they have contributed to the process of transparency and accountability which are pre-conditions to the functioning of a democratic government. It will examine the present state of freedom of expression and of the media.
Mr. Mahfouz Anam is co-founder of The Daily Star, (1991 – 1993) and has been editor-publisher of the newspaper since 1993. The Daily Star is international the most quoted paper from Bangladesh and has the highest internet readership in English. He was also the Founding Publisher (1998-2007) of Prothom Alo, the largest circulated and fastest growing Bangla daily.
Mr. Anam was a freedom fighter during Bangladesh’s Liberation War, 1971. During the war, he was recruited as a commissioned officer cadet in the Bangladesh Army. Thereafter, Mr. Anam worked for 14 years between 1977 and 1990 for UNESCO in various capacities in Bangkok, Paris and New York.
Some of his special interests are (i) democracy, press freedom and freedom of expression; (ii) human rights, rule of law and transparency of the governance process, and (iii) promoting media cooperation in South and South-East Asia.
Mr. Anam is currently a member and office bearer in a number of international organisations. Two of them are: (i) the Asian News Network (ANN), a network of 24 leading newspapers of Asia from 22 countries, where he is Founding Member and former Chairmen and also designated as the next chairman, and (ii) International Press Institute (IPI), the oldest international media based in Vienna, where he is currently elected Vice Chairman of the executive committee and member of executive committee since 2018.