Sunday, 27 November, 2022

A game-changing Journalists’ Welfare Trust

A game-changing Journalists’ Welfare Trust
Z A M Khairuzzaman

Popular News

Bangladesh  is  now  well-poised  to  celebrate ‘Mujib Barsho,’ the  golden  jubilee  of our glorious independence and the 100th birth anniversary of the  Father of the  Nation  Bangabandhu  Sheikh  Mujibur  Rahman,  a  rare occasion  in  our  national  history and the world has already joined this celebration. 

We are going to celebrate it at a time when the country is recognised worldwide as a role model of socioeconomic development and a responsible state in global affairs. The achievements are due to Bangladesh people’s drive to realise the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s dream of Sonar Bangla or Golden Bengal, a nation of prosperity and social justice for all with a modern inclusive society, yet preserving its old traditions and culture. The seeds of development were sown in 1972 under Bangabandhu’s leadership. After the glorious Liberation War, he had taken up the task of transforming the war-ravaged country into a prosperous one.

Standing on this solid foundation, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the Father of the Nation, has shown us the dream of achieving the status of a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041.

However, on this auspicious occasion, Bangladesh’s ICC Under-19 World Cup win is a major gift for the entire nation. In Bangladesh society, cricket and mass media enjoy a very symbiotic relationship. Both cricket and media try to reach out as far as they can to the people in general.

This is because of mass media, cricket has reached into Bangladeshi kitchens. It has also been instrumental in spreading the game to the remote villages across the country. As a result, smaller towns started to produce players who made it into the national team. For instance, Magura is the birth place of famous Bangladeshi cricketer Shakib Al Hasan, while Mashrafe Bin Mortaza hails from Narail. Since the national team is made up of players belonging to various regions and religions, it may seemingly reflect the collective identity and nationalistic spirit of Bangladesh.

Media being the fourth organ of the government plays an important role in all democratic countries. As a democratic country, in Bangladesh too media plays a crucial role. It chiefly plays the role of a shaper of public opinion. It brings to light various burning issues of human concern. 

The issue of arsenic contamination in the country was first picked up by print media in mid-1990s. News coverage has driven both the government and the international community to pay attention to the issue. Media has always supported the initiatives to strengthen human rights and to campaign against gender discrimination, repression of women, and religious extremism. This is media that has made the people of the country more aware about their fundamental human rights and constitutional protections.

Pre-Independence   media   is   marked   by   a   pro-nationalist   and   anti-establishment   politicisation. After independence, Bangladeshi media has come a long way. In the current milieu, media is experiencing an expanded social role. Media, by raising corruption as  an  important issue  creates  a  space  for  discussion  about  it  and  also  a  public  consensus to fight it. Here, an effective press works to curtail corruption.

There was a misconception that media will not be able to sustain unless it takes a negative stance against the government. But media now portrays the government’s positive activities for the sake of the country by discarding negative attitude towards the government. Media must focus on the truth for the interest of the country. It plays a role to brighten the country’s image by publishing true information and build public confidence to take forward the country. Media is an important link between governments and citizens, political parties and citizens but also helps build economy and implement the  agenda  for  2030  for building   a   happy   and   prosperous   future   for   the   nation and achieve the objectives of Vision 2041 as well as Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Previously, media only dealt with problems and solutions. But in recent times, leading dailies like the Daily Sun has brought a change highlighting success stories and putting positive news on its first page. Being the second highest circulated English daily of Bangladesh, the Daily Sun has  partnered  with various  government and non-government organisations to  run  awareness  campaigns on  social issues  like  acid  violence,  help  for  the  blind,  improving  education  and  legal  aid as well as child marriage and child labour and climate change et cetera. The  changing  face  of media  has  reflected  the  increasing  literacy,  purchasing  power  and  sophistication  of  the  Bangladeshi  polity.

The government has allowed enough opportunity for qualitative development of media so that its citizens can have information of ongoing development projects. The government nourishes media so that it can always play a vital role as a development partner. The Prime Minister has created an enabling atmosphere for media to operate smoothly. After each and every foreign tour, it is her routine affair to meet the press what is unprecedented in the history of Bangladesh. This is a manifestation of the premier’s cordial relationship with media. She herself is a good writer and she started the practice of writing during her student life.

Journalists here enjoy freedom while performing their duties. Mass media has emerged as the fourth pillar of the state. The media-friendly premier has done many things for the welfare of journalists. She has set up the Bangladesh Journalists’ Welfare Trust to provide financial assistance to journalists and families in hardship. She initiated the Trust fund in 2014 by giving seed money of Tk 5 crore, which later got more money from a number of private media houses raising the total amount over the past few years. Of late, the PM has again donated Tk 20 crore to the Trust fund. In the process, she has made a special bonding with the journalist community. Nothing can destroy the bonding between the PM and the journalist community.

The government also allocates resources to the Trust from the national budget. Formation of the Journalists’ Welfare Trust is really a game-changer. In a country where treatment cost is too high, this scheme has brought hope to insolvent ailing journalists. The Trust fund has already benefited a large  number of journalists, especially the ailing ones or injured or incapacitated and to the families of journalists who are in distress due to death of their main bread earners.

Finally, we pay our profound tributes and deepest gratitude to the Father of the Nation because of whom we are working at various newspapers both national and regional. We would not have got the opportunity to work at newspapers had he not freed our beloved motherland from the clutch of Pakistani military junta.


The writer is a columnist.

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