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Media and people’s behavior then and now

Editorials 2022-04-20, 2:59pm

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Mostafa Kamal Majumder



The publisher of a leading daily Dhaka newspaper, an influential man in the society as he was, used to add extra messages to stories that reporters of the paper used to write on events he had been invited to address. The argument was, the function that he addressed was attended by say merely one hundred people or so, but the story on the event being published in his newspaper would go to hundreds of thousands of readers. The exercise of this self proclaimed right to tell readers what he wanted to convey rather than what he had actually spelt out at the meeting in question put reporters of other newspapers or news media in an awkward situation because the contents of their reports differed from what the paper of the renowned publisher mentioned above carried.

Print journalists who covered events started facing more awkward situations when the number of electronic media dramatically increased in the country. Reporters of television channels or radio stations attending the same events developed a habit of asking the speakers to tell something on record for them to report. This gifted opportunity to speak again is utilized by most speakers to tell more than what they had spoken in the meeting itself. Tv and radio reporters can air reports faster than reporters of print newspapers because of the advantage of technology, but the extra newsy things told to them by the resource persons put the latter in additional disadvantages. When editors of print media see their reporters' copies at the end of the day, they ask whether they attended the events they were assigned to cover. Because tv and radio stations by then aired the stories with the extra news elements divulged to them by the eminent speakers.

The practice of putting new elements to stories of events can even put members of intelligence services into dire straits. Famous journalist ABM Musa who was the News Editor of The Bangladesh Observer during its hay day told this writer that a member of the intelligence branch (IB) of police came to his office one day seeking his assistance to save his job. He sought to know what had happened to the IB man. The police intelligence man said the publisher of the paper who was also a foreign minister of the then Pakistan did go to his constituency in Noakhali about a week before but failed to address a rally due to disturbance created by some opposition activists. Accordingly he submitted his report to his office. But his seniors caught him off-guard by showing report of the event published in the paper. The IB man made a swear on God he was not telling lies. Musa Bhai inquired and confirmed that the man was right. But he was undone because how could he tell senior police officers who were the IB man’s bosses that the report in question was concocted.

The latest report of this kind has been reported in the news media on April 19. The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association organized an Iftar and Doa Mahfil at a posh hotel in capital Dhaka on 18 April. Attendance at the mahfil was below expectation. We were four Newspaper and News media editors present. Possibly heavy traffic jam on the roads in the whole city was to blame for the low attendance at the mahfil and the organizers just invited the guests present to the iftar and refrained from making a formal statement. The news media however reported on the following day that a BGMEA leader made a speech in which he called for unity to ensure continued development of the RMG industry. The organisers of the mahfil possibly in a second thought felt why miss an opportunity to speak through the media which will go to hundreds of thousands of people even though the iffar mahfil was attended by barely one hundred people.

(Writer of this pieve, Mostafa Kamal Majumder, is the editor of GreenWatch Dhaka online newspaper)