Editors and academicians on Saturday said journalism is going through various crises in the country and surviving amid adversities is a great achievement and more will have to be gained in future.
They also said all must keep in mind newspapers will survive only if a true democracy prevails. So, all must work to establish a true democracy together and in that case, the government will have to be more tolerable, they said.
The editors and the academicians made the remarks at a discussion on “50 years of Bangladesh: Achievement of mass media and challenges in future”, organised by Editors’ Council at CIRDAP auditorium in Dhaka.
Syed Manzoorul Islam, retired professor of English department at Dhaka University, was the main speaker of the programme.
He said there are various obstacles to the exercise of freethinking in journalism along with rising prices of papers and other equipment and unavailability of advertisements, and setting conditions.
Besides, divisions have been created among journalists. If media workers and editors are divided, credibility of journalism will decrease. Everyone has rights to do ideological politics, but partisan has grabbed everything. There is party politics among physicians, engineers and even among teachers.
Now if the journalists get involved in partisan politics, newspapers will lose impartiality and it will be a challenge in future, he added.
Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam said the achievement of media is huge. Media, for example, is becoming an industry though it has not been an industry as yet. Media is trying to go near to industry. When it will become an industry, its role will be stronger. There are two editions of newspapers now – one is print and another is online. Many people thought the days of printed newspapers are going to an end but apparently it did not happen in the country. People read news online and also read newspapers in the morning, he added.
Syed Manzoorul Islam shared the experience of a youth. The youth told him that newspaper makes the entire day. Newspapers still have credibility to youths and it is very important, the ex-DU professor said adding surviving amid adversity is also a great achievement.
Syed Manzoorul Islam, however, mentioned wage of the journalists in Bangladesh is not enough. Few jobs offer such a low wage that young journalists receive and it, too, is irregular. Had a better wage and allowance been arranged; incentive, training and other required conditions been fulfilled, newspaper would have flourished more, he said adding this is also a challenge for the future.
He said a lack of unity is visible among journalists. There are many associations of the journalists. It seems they split like political parties. That is why it has not been possible to realise the journalists’ demand altogether.
Syed Manzoorul Islam called for activating the Press Council and urged journalists to remain alert to prevent yellow journalism all the time.
Honorary professor of Mass Communication and Journalism department at Dhaka University, Sakhawat Ali Khan joined the programme virtually.
He said there is no end to the hostility to journalism. Struggle must continue amid this hostility. Daily newspapers will no longer survive with regular news now. If a true democracy prevails, newspapers will survive. So, all must create a true democracy together, he added.
Editors’ Council president and The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam presided over the discussion. He placed a set of demands for the growth of journalism.
Requesting to the judiciary, Mahfuz Anam said the law clearly states no more than one libel suit can be filed over a single incident and only the aggrieved person can file the lawsuit. So, why are there more cases filed against journalists over a single incident? Lawsuit not filed by the aggrieved person is also accepted, does it not violate the law? Is it not the responsibility of the judiciary to protect citizens and journalists?
He demanded to the government to reconsider the repressive laws again and make necessary amendments to those. Of those laws, the Digital Security Act is rampantly used against the journalists, he observed.
Urging the newspaper owners, Mahfuz Anam said journalism is a different form of arts and a different mind-set is necessary to run such arts and please understand it. Respect the journalists and don’t think them as the workers of other factories. Above all, respect the editors from the heart and give them opportunity to work independently, he added.
Mahfuz Anam requested the journalists to understand the greatness and importance of the profession. And my request to the editors is that newspapers will be more respectful as much as you make your post respectful. And journalism will be credible more to the people, he added.
Fight for journalism must continue
Editors’ Council member and senior journalist Reazuddin Ahmed said nowadays journalists are the opponent to everyone from the government to miscreants. True journalism is not possible without a democratic atmosphere and cooperation of the government. The institutions on which the society stands have collapsed. So where will the journalism stand and go on? Journalism is never-ending fight and this fight must continue, he added.
Bhorer Kagoj editor Shyamal Dutta said big industrialists have stepped forward with investment in journalism. But they ventured to project their interest. There is no way to think that they will think about the interest of mass media. There is no policy on the ownership of mass media and anyone can be the owner of mass media, he added.
Shyamal Dutta questioned saying how will the media work freely when authoritarian rules unequivocally? Are parliament and judiciary functioning properly? Executive branch has become an example of party loyalty.
He said journalism face unprecedented challenge now. Newspaper mainly runs on the revenue from advertisement. Various corporate firms stop advertisement, if news is published against them. And if news goes against the government, they reduce advertisement. So how will the newspapers operate?
Samakal acting editor Mustafiz Shafi said media is going through many crises despite many achievements.
New Age editor Nurul Kabir said it was comparatively better during 1990-2001 though it was not up to the standard.
MA Malek, editor of Chattogram based Dainik Azadi, said the challenges of news media are to keep the readers and to collect advertisements. The newspapers should charge a portion of money for their online subscribers.
The editor of Dhaka Tribune Zafar Sobhan opined that the freedom of expression has been curtailed greatly.
Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor of the daily Bonik Barta and the acting general secretary of editors’ council, conducted the programme. Matiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo, and senior journalists from different media outlets attended the meeting.