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.
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.
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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