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Media in crisis globally -The Asian Age


Two journalists have been awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2021 who are Maria Ressa from Philippines and Dmitry Muratov from Russia. They have been conferred this valuable award for their uncompromising struggle to sustain freedom of press in their respective countries. Freedom of press is indispensable to promote democracy and to protect human rights. Journalists play a very big role to fight corruption and irregularities and thus journalists and newspapers contribute in the socio-economic growth of different countries.

Newspapers in Bangladesh are facing a highly tough time in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic. A broad number of newspapers are not being able to pay salaries to their employees for months while some newspapers are on the verge of closing down. Under these circumstances, newspapers need special financial assistance from the government.

The government provided special stimulus packages to deal with the adverse economic impact of the Covid 19 pandemic but it has been noticed that most of the money of the stimulus packages has been taken up by big corporate houses while very little money has been spent for the betterment of mass media and for the impoverished population.

Protecting newspapers is one of the most essential things to drive Bangladesh forward. The government should place due importance on the reports published by newspapers. Reflections of graft and anomalies in various sectors often come up through the reports and write-ups of newspapers. Sometimes newspapers face antagonistic feedback from different quarters following the publication of investigative reports on loan scammers, financial fraudsters, terror finance etcetera.

Even The Asian Age fell a victim to animosity from a certain corner after it published a report on banking corruption and financial rackets in 2019. Unidentified miscreants wanted to stop the publication of The Asian Age by threatening the newspaper's press.  Concerned ministries, press wings of important offices and policymakers should come up with effective measures to save newspapers and mass media from financial predicaments.

Top officials should sit with the owners and editors of newspapers to sort out their problems and find sustainable solutions.
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman hated corruption. He once said, "The lackeys (chatar dol) eat up everything". Bangladesh has made a great deal of progress during last several years under the firm leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The Prime Minister also donated 10 crore taka to Bangladesh Journalists Welfare Trust in April 2021.

Panama Papers, Pandora Papers, Wikileaks and International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published the financial vices committed by influential and powerful leaders of different countries. Bangladesh is inflicted with defaulted loans of roughly 2 trillion taka including written off debts, according to financial sources. Allegedly most of the defaulted loans have been transferred abroad through money laundering. Newspapers often have to confront inimical situations by publishing such news items.

Media is in crisis globally. Even a celebrated newspaper like the Guardian seeks money from its readers. Some other international newspapers seek subscriptions from their readers. It shows that financial hardship has badly affected newspapers in most of the countries. In the present world newspapers need to work much faster and more professionally because millions of people get to know latest news coverage through social media.

Puffed up flattery to cajole high-ups leads to no tangible outcomes. It has been observed in press conferences that some people butter up the head of the government with egregious admiration. Such applause hinders the prevalence of good governance. Rather the real scenario should be put forward to solve impediments and to combat drawbacks. Sycophancy is awfully harmful for the establishment of accountability and transparency.

Former President of National Press Club Shafiqur Rahman said to The Asian Age, "The owners of most of the newspapers are all affluent businessmen. They should be more professional, generous and genuine. The dues of the employees of all newspapers should be paid in time. Simultaneously, it should be noted that newspapers are highly essential for the expansion of democracy and promoting human rights."

Former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Professor Dr. AAMS Arefin Siddique said, "Newspapers have great responsibilities for a country's overall development and for the advancement of democracy. Special initiatives should be executed to save newspapers and journalists. The owners of newspapers should not shed employees during the ongoing pandemic. The government should also look after the wellbeing of journalists."

Prominent academic and social activist Mahfuza Khanam said to The Asian Age, "Freedom of press is vital for a country's prosperity. Democracy and good governance cannot prevail if newspapers are not allowed to work independently."Dr. Badiul Alam Majumder, Secretary of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan), said to The Asian Age, "The authorities concerned and the owners of newspapers should look after the welfare of journalists. Newspapers contribute a lot for the prevalence of socio-economic justice and equity."