Mahfuz Anam

Article Bio Merits Projects
democracy, human rights
Written and spoken word (criticism, debate, journalism)
Asia, Southern and Central
created on:
July 14, 2003
last changed on:
Please note: This page has not been updated since September 22, 2003. We decided to keep it online because we think the information is still valuable.
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Mahfuz Anam
© Wahidur Rahman Khandkar Czhoton


Outspoken editor from Bangladesh

Mahfuz Anam is an outspoken editor of Daily Star, one of Bangladesh´s english spoken papers. Anam´s path to a being a libertarian started as Anam was a freedom fighter during Bangladesh´s Liberation War, 1971.
Mahfuz Anam sets the Bangladeshi political agenda with his sharp and witty pen.

Mahfuz Anam has a comprehensive expertise in media planning and media development, from a long career as jounalist, editor and publisher in Bangladesh and as a media expert for UNESCO.

Today Anam is a highly respected TV interviewer, ínvited to interview the Prime Minister and other highest level dignitaries of the country. Besides, he is regularly invited to speak in regional and international forum on governance, human rights, press freedom and related issues.

Besides being an editor Anam is also the founder and chairman of a local NGO in Bangladesh "The Freedom Foundation" - the most prestigious philanthropic institution of the country, supported by the Ford Foundation, New York. This NGO raises awareness about issues related to human rights, minority treatment etc. in Bangladesh.

Mahfuz Anam is editor and publisher of ´The Daily Star´. He is publisher of of ´Prothom´; the largest circulated and fastest growing Bangla daily, of ´Weekly´, the largest circulated Bangla political weekly, and of of Anandadhra; the highest circulated entertainment fortnightly.

Anam is futhermore author of the most popular and respected political column "Commentary".

Political views:
According to Anam, there is no basic disagreement between the two ruling parties behind the conflicts, which paralyses the political system in Bangladesh. In most cases they agree on the same politic. It is rather due to underlying personal and historical contrasts between the two clans
following Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina.

"On the one hand we have an arrogant government. On the other we have an
irresponsible opposition. In case of a shift in government, the two parts just change roles. The party in charge of the government responsibility attack political opponents, but the opposition does not behave more democratic either. They often boycott the parliament and try to paralyse the country by proposing massive strikes.......".

"Furthermore there exist among both parties strong groups, which lives by and are nourished by this conflict and will lose positions in case of reconciliation and constructive co-operation" (from article by Ellen Hofsvang in ´Bistandsaktuelt´).

Defamation case:
Mahfuz Anam has just been victim of an attack of the press, implying arrest warrants of arrests of him and another editor.

The reason is that they published a letter written by Abdul Jalil expressing his opinion about the candidacy of a Bangladeshi nominee for an executive position in an international organisation. The letter contained opinion critical of the nominee, a senior government official, who in turn filed a complaint before the central Court in Dhaka under sections of the Bangladesh Penal Code which provide for up to two years´ imprisonment for "defamation".

Harassment of the two leading editors is in sharp contrast to a recent plea by Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia at a meeting of the South Asian Free Media Association. He told journalists to sharpen their pens "to write against narrowness, limited vision, conflict and disputes (to) build up powerful public opinion in South Asia in favour of peace, friendship, humanism and co-operation."

Despite pledges by authorities to uphold the freedom of the press, journalists are frequently targets of attacks, intimidation and harassment. Dozens of journalists have been assaulted with impunity either by the police when covering demonstrations or by armed gangs affiliated to various political parties. In addition, several journalists have been arrested and accused of a range of politically motivated charges including sedition. They have been taken into custody for weeks or sometimes months and many of them have been tortured or ill-treated while in custody.

The recent use of "defamation" criminal law against these two leading editors may signal a new move to coerce journalists to refrain from publishing articles deemed critical of the authorities.
Author: Karin Bergquist


1950: Mahfuz Anam was born in Bangladesh, 18 June.

Academic Qualifications :
1971: M.A. in Economics, University of Dhaka; B.A.

1970: (Hons.) in Economics, University of Dhaka

Current position:
Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star 1993-till date.
Publisher;Prothom; the largest circulated and fastest growing Bangla daily;1998.
Publisher;Weekly 2000; the largest circulated Bangla political weekly;1997.
Publisher;Anandadhra; the highest circulated entertainment fortnightly-1997.

Current Activities (Additional) : Author of the most popular and respected political column;Commentary.

Executive Committee Member of CASAC, a regional grouping of eminent personalities from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Nepal dedicated to promoting regional co-operation among SAARC countries.
Founder-Chairperson of Bangladesh Freedom Foundation, the most prestigious philanthropic institution of the country, supported by the Ford Foundation, New York

1977-1990 : Worked for 14 years for UNESCO, in various capacities, as detailed below:

1986-1990: Regional Media and Public Affairs representative for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand, covering 31 countries; In this capacity he was responsible for all media work of Unesco throughout the region including organizing media roundtables, journalist tours and media conference. His work entailed inter-acting with the leading outlets, media personalities, professional bodies and NGOs of the region.

1982-1986: Unesco Public Affairs Officer and media representative to the United Nations, United States and Canada, based at the UN headquarters, New York; 1982-86. In this capacity he represented Unesco to all media organisation in the US and Canada.

1977-1982: During this period he represented Unesco in the Special Political Committee on Information of the the United Nations in New York.

1977-82: Programme Specialist in Communication, Unesco Headquarters, Paris, France.

In this capacity he was responsible for organizing training programmes for Third World journalists, undertaking research studies on print and audio-visual media and organizing meetings and conferences on the important policy issues concerning the media.


Academic Qualifications : Winner of All Pakistan Debating Championship for three consecutive terms from 1967-70, in Karachi, Dhaka and Lahore respectively. Jefferson Fellow (1976) of East-West Centre, Honolulu, USA.


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Images of Asia

(08 August 03 - 26 September 03)