Bangla Academy explains why it denied a publisher access to Ekushey Book Fair

It comes after Mahabub Rahman, the CEO of Adarsha Prokashona, accused the academy of taking an 'anti-constitutional stance' against the freedom of speech

Staff Correspondent
Published : 22 Jan 2023, 09:28 AM
Updated : 22 Jan 2023, 09:28 AM

The Bangla Academy has addressed the controversy surrounding its reported denial of a stall at this year's Ekushey Book Fair to Adarsha Prokashoni. 

In a statement on Sunday, the event's organiser said it is yet to allot any stalls, which will be done later through a lottery.

It comes after Mahabub Rahman, the CEO of Adarsha Prokashona, accused the academy of taking an 'anti-constitutional stance' against the freedom of speech.

Citing a member of the fair committee, he said the academy blocked its allotment because of three books: “Oprotirodhyo Unyaner Obhabonio Kothamala” by Foyez Ahmed Toiyob, “Bangalir Mediocrityr Sondhane” by Faham Abdus Salam, and “Unyan Bivrom” by Zia Hasan. Faham is the son-in-law of BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir.

In response, the Bangla Academy said the fair's managing committee went through Faham's book and found that it did not comply with the event's regulations.

The academy later contacted Mahabub over the telephone to urge him to resolve the matter and also issued a written statement to the effect that the publisher would not be allowed to display the book unless the rules of the fair were followed, it said.

However, Mahabub insisted that he would not accept the committee's decision and said the fair's policies were in conflict with the constitution. He also threatened to take the academy to court if Adarsha was not allotted a stall.

Explaining the decision to bar the book, the academy said it contained 'obscene', 'distasteful' and 'sarcastic' statements about the Bengali ethnicity, the judiciary, the constitution, the Liberation War, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his historic March 7 speech, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

While the constitution guarantees free speech, subject to reasonable restrictions, the Bangla Academy said these excerpts from the book are not protected under Article 39(2).

The Ekushey Book Fair is set to begin on Feb 1 in keeping with tradition after the coronavirus pandemic delayed the opening of the month-long programme in the past two years ebbed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the fair in person and it will continue until Feb 28. The main fair venue will be on the academy premises as usual.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher