Readers are the heart of a newspaper. On the occasion of the country’s leading national daily Prothom Alo’s 24th anniversary on Friday, a readers' festival was arranged at the premises of the Bangla Academy. The celebrations and festivities began in the morning and ran until late afternoon. With children, teenagers, youth, the elderly, and people of all ages, professions and walks of life, the celebration turned into a massive get-together of Prothom Alo readers.
With the motto “in truth and in news, 24”, the ‘Reader’s Festival’ began at 8:30am. At first, a drawing competition for the children was held to kick-start the day full of festivities.
Alongside the main stage of the Reader’s Festival, Naksha also had a separate stage of its own where a variety of events were held. Various sections of Prothom Alo had their separate stalls. With music, dance, flash mob performances, film screening, sports competition for kids, this event turned into a festival of joy.
The objective behind holding this festival on Prothom Alo’s anniversary was to connect with the readers, writers, well-wishers, hawkers and more. At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, an open-to-all event like this couldn’t be held. Now that the Covid situation is under control, people have readjusted to normal life. At such a time, more than 20 thousand people from Dhaka and other districts of the country joined the event staged by Prothom Alo.
Alongside the capital, Prothom Alo’s 24th anniversary was celebrated at other districts of the country as well. Discussions, art contests, debates, sweets distribution, cultural programmes, etc were held to celebrate the day. Bondhushava members in Rajshahi, Natore, Naogaon, Padbna, Nilphamari, Gaibandha, Thakurgaon, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Chandpur, Brahmanbaria, Faridpur, Patukhali, Magura, Kushtia, Chuadanga and Rajbari arranged these events.
A colourful celebration for children
Thousands of children with their parents arrived at the Bangla Academy premises early in the morning to take part in the drawing contest. From three-year-olds to students of Class 10, children sat in long rows starting from Bangla Academy’s entrance, stretching up to the entrance of the Abdul Karim Sahitya Bisharad Auditorium. Engrossed in their art, they lost themselves in their canvases.
Arunima Ahir, a fifth standard student from the capital’s Zainul Abedin School and College in Aftabnagar, came with her father. With full focus, she was bringing out nature on the canvas. Arunima’s father ASM Mamun, a government employee, said such events leave a mark in children’s hearts. He thanked Prothom Alo for thinking about readers of all ages and including this event in the festivities.
Celebrated artist Rafiqun Nabi, Syed Abul Barq Alvi, Abdul Mannan, Ashok Karmaker and Atia Islam judged the arts competition. They said it was very difficult for them to select just six drawings from so many.
During the prize distribution programme, artist Rafiqun Nabi said, “You have handed paint brushes to your children’s hands, that’s a big thing. Those who have a paint brush in their hand will learn about nature and will also learn about colours. They will also learn from their mistakes.”
The youth trusts Prothom Alo
In the opening event of the Readers Festival, Prothom Alo’s executive editor Sajjad Sharif got onto the stage with six youths who have contributed in different sectors. These youths said, they have faith in Prothom Alo. This newspaper stands beside them, talks about their struggles and success.
ARCASIA prize winner Taorem Sananu said, “We all need to overcome our individual obstacles.”
Chief executive officer (CEO) of country’s leading electronics company Golam Murshed said, Prothom Alo is a special place for him.
Jannatul Ferdous, who stood 1st in the administrator cadre of the 40th BCS, said, Prothom Alo stands beside the youth, speaks about their struggles.
Debater Sourodip Paul spoke about his love for Basic Ali, a cartoon which used to regularly appear in Prothom Alo. Actress Nazifa Tushi said she used to collect all copies of Prothom Alo’s Naksha.
Executive editor Sajjad Sharif said, when everyone is alight with their talents, the country will be illuminated. Prothom Alo is working to ignite that fire inside all of us. For 24 years, Prothom Alo is striving to provide objective news to the readers.
“We’ll remain standing for truth”
After the opening ceremony in the morning, there was a question-answer session where Prothom Alo writers answered questions from the readers. With their favourite writerss in front of them, the readers asked questions regarding their writings, about the writers' freedom, the country’s political situation, law and order, etc.
CAMPE executive director and a former advisor of the caretaker government Rasheda K Choudhury, writer Mohiuddin Ahmad, professor Anu Muhammad, professor Asif Nazrul, journalist Kamal Ahmed and writer Afsana Begum answered questions of the readers. Prothom Alo associate editor and Kishor Alo editor Anisul Haque conducted this event.
The writers said, no matter how much pressure they face or the obstacles that come their way, they remain standing for the truth. They will protest lies and injustice. For this, they asked everyone to remain united.
In the afternoon, Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and other senior journalists answered questions from the readers. The editor said, unveiling the truth is Prothom Alo’s goal.
In the Readers Festival, there were separate stalls for Gollachut, Chhutir Dine, Pro Odhuna, Pro Swapna Niye, Naksha, Haal Fashion, Kishor Alo, Bigyan Chinta, Proti Chinta, integrated news room, Prothom Alo Trust, Prothom Alo Jobs, Chorki, Prothom Alo Digital, Bondhu Shobha and information centre. The readers were a lively presence in all of the stalls.
In the Kishor Alo, stall, there was quiz and games; Bigyan chinta stall had chess, quiz and games; psychologists, nutritionists, lawyers and child specialists gave suggestions in the Odhuna stall; there was a Gollachut corner for children; henna and eye makeup was being applied and culinary specialists provided cooking tips at the Naksha stall; a special fashion show with the readers, nail art, skin testing and a fashion show was held at the Haal Fashion stall; a reader’s quiz was held at the Chutir Dine stall; there were many feature-related arrangements at the Swapna Niye stall and at the Bondhushava stall, new member registration was going on in full swing.
There were guaranteed prizes in the games at the digital stall. At the Cholti Ghotona stall, specialists were providing tips for recruitment exams like BCS and different government banks. Jobseekers found information regarding jobs at Prothom Alo at the Chakri-Bakri stall. At the Prothom Alo Trust stall, specialists provided tips on mental health, against drug addiction, games on mental health, quiz and prizes, There was also a book fair and food stalls at the festival.
Songs, flash mobs and celebration
Young and popular artistes performed at different points throughout the day. Turongomi dance studio did a special performance.
In the afternoon, Dhaka Newspaper Hawkers Multipurpose Cooperative Association members arrived at the festival accompanied by the sounds of drums. They enthralled the festival with song and dance. At the festival, Chorki arranged a film exhibition. Taan and Dui Diner Duniya, Chorki original movies, were shown at the festival. Bondhushava members presented a flash mob performance on different popular songs. The festival drew to a conclusion with a music show.
Winners of readers quiz
On the occasion of Prothom Alo’s anniversary, a special online quiz was arranged for the readers. The first round of the quiz was held between 23 October to 1 November. The six best winners from the first round the main round of the quiz was held at the Readers Festival. Chief coordinator of Prothom Alo’s digital transformation and youth programme, Munir Hasan, conducted the quiz.
The winner of the main round, Bangladesh Bank’s associate director Nurul Amin won a gift cheque of Tk 100,000. Second place Shahin Alam and third placed Mohammad Akbar Hossain were awarded gift cheques of Tk 60,000 and Tk 40,000 respectively. In total, a total of Tk 500,000 was awarded in both round of the quiz.
Winners of the drawing competition
Three-year-olds to 4th standard students were slotted in Ka group in the drawing competition. In this group, Suhail Hossain, a 2nd standard student from Motijheel Ideal School and College came first, Scholastica School’s KG 2 student Arghya Chakraborty came second and Motijheel Colony School’s playgroup student Jasiya Binte Jashim finished third.
In the Kha group (class 5-10), Viquarunnisa Noon School and College’s eighth standard student Ornila Bhowmik was declared first, Akij Foundation School and College’s seventh standard student Anisha Shantoni came second and Narayanganj High School and College’s fifth standard student Maimuna Chowdhury came third.
Every participant in the drawing competition was awarded a congratulatory letter. The first, second and third of both Ka and Kha group were awarded certificates, books and drawing equipment worth Tk 10,000, Tk 6000 and Tk 5000 respectively.
What the readers said
Bangladesh Water Development Board’s deputy director Saiful Islam came to the festival with his wife and two daughters, who study at the Viquarunnisa School and College. Saiful said, “If I don’t read Prothom Alo, I feel I haven’t read anything at all. My daughters regularly read Kishor Alo. A celebration like this for the readers shows exactly why Prothom Alo is different from others.”
The presence of youth at the festival was eye-catching. First year intermediate students from Dhaka College Soumitra Kumar and Orpon Ray were roaming around by themselves. They said, “There is a huge presence of readers at Prothom Alo’s event. From a young age, we have developed a habit of reading Prothom Alo, that’s why we were eager to come here.”
An official of an NGO Wahida Zaman said, “Prothom Alo is one of the main news sources I look at to verify the truth of any incident. May Prothom Alo continue to satisfy the readers’ demands by providing factual news.”