There is probably a never ending stock of vocabulary for expressing how bad were the days before January 11, 2007. Although serious challenges are being raised about that irresponsible and reckless generalization, nobody could claim that days post 1/11 are better for the media.
Compared to absolute freedom ( of journalism as well as of conspiracy) our media enjoyed before 1/11, last one year has been one of the the worst time for the media in Bangladesh. A recent New Age report chronicles the miseries of our media and media-men over the last years. The current military regime has taken control of almost all the electronic media in Bangladesh. While channel I considers itself a partner of the conspiracy and coup of 1/11, other channels have either been grabbed by crude forces or blackmailed into submission. A few days after 1/11, following the arrest of Giasuddin Mamun and AFM Selim, respectively the MD and Chairman of Channel 1, the channel was taken over by a retired major. We heard of land grabbing or even pukur churi, but this was first instance of TV channel robbery in Bangladesh history. Channel 1 employees protested in a press conference but this story was shunned by the mainstream Bangladeshi media. Veteran journalist Ataus Samad was appointed CEO of NTV when both its chairman ( Falu) and MD ( Enayetur Rahman Bappi) were arrested and the TV station was destroyed in a fire. After rebuilding the channel in an amazing fast pace, Mr Samad has recently resigned. It was learnt that lately Mr Falu was running the show from behind the bar as a result of an invisible understanding with the military intelligence agency (DGFI) that is running the country now. With an invisible finger movement Falu’s bank account transactions continued unhindered and Falu could happily run the channel by signing documents and giving phone directions from jail. Mr Ataus Samad, finding himself bypassed, resigned. In the meanwhile NTV MD Mr Bappi also got released from jail ( This was also not seen in the media). And the effect is clear. TV has suddenly become another mouth piece of the DGFI run government. Another TV outfit, RTV, also owned by the same Mr Falu, has recently been sold to another government selected business house, Bengal group. It is not a secret that the DGFI
facilitated forced this transaction. There is no question that RTV now is another trumpet of the government. The only news only channel in Bangladesh, CSB, has been shut down with the stroke of a pen. No questions asked, no answers given. Rest of electronic media took the lesson and became the best buddy of the military Generals.
The new age report lists the condition of print media. While two leading newspapers boast of being the media partner of the 1/11 coup and another one is is working its ass off to become the media machine of the government, the rest of the print media are somehow held hostage by this government. Almost a dozen of media owners are now either in jail or being chased by the law enforcement agencies.
Breaking the glorious tradition of defying all intimidation, the media submitted themselves completely. Despite all these torture, they are in deep love with this government. This is classic stockholm syndrome. You will hardly see any news item critical of this government. After five years of blanket, true-false criticism of previous government, our editors have suddenly become sold to this government. Every single day there is conscious effort of promote the government or its cronies.
If one asks the editors to resume their job of the watchdog of the nation, they will show lame excuse of DGFI phone calls or government pressure on the owner. However, there are exceptions. New Age has been critical and defiant all along. New Age is a proof that the excuses shown by our leading editors are lame. Despite all the torture on BNP as well as on the publisher, BNP’s mouth piece Daily Dinkal remained another defiant outlet. Similarly outlets like Nayadiganta, Shangbad, Jaijaidin also refrained from mindless boot-licking of the Generals.
I’ll end my commentary today with link to two news items. Both are very unusual at current situation. First one is a commentary by Jaijaidin editor Shafik Rehman. This is one of the rare occasions where an editor directly takes jab at the de facto ruler, army chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed. Revoking the failed government plan of minus two, he proposes minus three. The three he wants to minus are three Ahmeds. Gen Moeen U ahmed, CA Fakhruddin Ahmed and President Iajudin Ahmed.
The second critique was absent in most of the media with a few exceptions. The exceptions are Shangbad and Inqilab! DU teacher leader Anwar Hossain read a scathing written criticism of current government including Generals Moeen U Ahmed. This is the harshest ever criticism ever seen in media outlets in post 1/11 Bangladesh. Read the Inqilab version here and this is the Shangbad version.
Looks like the scenerio is changing, finally. Hope the rest of the media will come out of the stockholm syndrome soon.