Dhaka Evening News

Bangladesh and Journalism

Can we imagine our lives without the media? Not at all! It is simply alarming to think about it as we have come a long way since we started living with information. Why is media so important? It is important because it shapes and reshapes our lives in many ways by playing the role of agenda setter, gatekeeper and watchdog. It is important because it has the tremendous impact on our politics, business, human rights protection and exposing graft practices. In this globalised age, we cannot be better off without the media.

In Bangladesh, journalism has made a good progress playing crucial roles in different historic turns of the country, particularly during the tumultuous pre-liberation period and also after the independence. Their crucial role during autocratic regimes helped the country get rid of the worst suffocating situations in its political history, leading to a greater freedom of press.

We think that the media’s main responsibility, at least ideally, is to keep citizens abreast with necessary information and help leaders run a democratic society. Democracy ensures people’s access to a wide range of governance and the core issues of everyday affairs. Despite a being small and developing nation, the people of Bangladesh take huge interest in news, particularly that of political ones, both local and international. That is why we see talk-shows on TV channels, particularly the ones on politics, drawing huge viewers. Our political leaders also make frequent references to it while emphasising that the media in Bangladesh are enjoying full freedom as everybody can talk about anything even the one that goes against the government.

Though questions may be raised about the media ecosystem, it is true that the media landscape in Bangladesh expanding fast, including the print media, for its inherent ‘magical power’. Those who have money crave for owning media houses. And the journalists who are ambitious these days also go for media ventures as technology has made things easier for them, thanks to the absence of any online media policy in the country.

A strong sign is now there that a vibrant media sector is emerging in Bangladesh, though the quality concern remains there in both the print and electronic media. But it will take time for the news industry to achieve the desired standard and maturity as there is a serious lack of skilled manpower. In this situation, many media outlets find it difficult to make their onward journeys smoother. More importantly, there comes a time when freedom of the press looks vulnerable for various reasons. If the media has to compromise, it can no longer play the due role the people of the country expect from it.

The weakest point of Bangladesh media is its economic insolvency, which makes them dependent on government advertisement, weakening their positions. As elsewhere in the world, there are groups that control the media here in Bangladesh, such as, businesspeople, multinational companies and crime syndicates.

Unlike in the past, Bangladesh media have gradually become more business-oriented ones shifting their focus from serious issues to non-issues. The media can concentrate more on issues of public interests reducing their focus on politics though the country’s people take great interest in politics as elsewhere in the world.

Another growing problem in Bangladesh journalism is political activism. When one is given a particular beat of a political party, he or she turns out to be a follower of that party, and start talking along that party line, unlike the financial beat. The interesting thing is that those who work in business beat he or she tries to improve his or her expertise, even if he does not come from the relevant discipline/s. Even many journalism students have been able to make their marks in Bangladesh’s business journalism. What I would like to say is that if one develops any sympathy for a particular party and shows sympathy for it, there is a possibility for him and her to compromise while filing his or her story. This happens for a number of reasons which are known to all.

If you refuse to go into their tank, there will come some freebies to have you into their fold. And in the process, you will get a prescription on how to serve their causes. A few days back, a colleague of mine shared with me a story how a junior journalist of a little known Bangla newspaper approached some businessmen seeking financial support from them as he was set to buy a flat in Dhaka city for his family. This is embarrassing for the whole community.

Besides, the political division of the journalist community has largely weakened the position of journalists. The unity of journalists under the umbrella of a single organisation not only helps protect the press from the onslaught of any quarter but also protect the interest of the community. Journalists here from Pakistan days till the early 90s had always been united under a single platform. During the post-1975 days, journalists became highly politicised and they divided themselves along two sharp political lines.

Another factor that may worry many is the lack of drive among our some community members to properly pick up the job. Many want a quicker journey to journalism without giving much labour this noble professional desperately needs. There is no alternative to learning for being a smart and efficient journalist. Another weak point of the journalists in Bangladesh is the lack of their job security. Here journalists can be hired and fired at will, throwing many out of jobs.

Professional journalism thrives on liberal democratic environment, commitment, transparency and accountability. But Bangladesh has got more underground newspapers than the quality ones, which are eating up a large chunk of government advertisements in addition to undermining the profession in many ways.

The other day the production manger of a renowned steel mill who happened to be my relative called me over my cellphone and told me that “a journalist of ….newspaper’ was sitting before me wants to know about many things about our company irrelevantly’. As my relative described the journalist about me and the organisation I work for, the so-called reporter left the place. This is how we are let down in our society because of a hand full of people. This is called bad journalism which jolts our values.

To make a turnaround, the entire journalist community needs to work together with the media owners by convincing them to invest more human resource development, as there is a bright prospect of good journalism out there.

Source: UNB News

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