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All Journos Are Govt Babus

August 11, 2017

Government has opened a new front of confrontation. This time it picks up  the press as its opponent. Latest brawl revolves around the 9th wage board for journalists.

The inflation-hit journalist community is longing for it for a long time. In a country where democracy is dysfunctional, press is playing the role of an alternate party.

It is a little surprise that government came down hard on it. Just the first six months of this year,19 journalists fell victims of controversial section 57 of ICT Act. It has further irked the press people by shelving the newest wage board that lays down the pay structure of the journalists.

Well anarchists once again found themselves at the heart of this debate. Representative of the radical lefts contrary to other members in the cabinet pressed for retaining section 57 of the ICT Act.

As police stations across Bangladesh are deluged with cases filed under section 57, Police Headquarter has issued a notice instructing all the Police stations to forward all such complaints to Police HQ and to wait for its final words before registering them as cases.

Then Finance minister took a potshot at the 9th wage board. He reacted angrily to the number of newspaper in Bangladesh (200 +),  cited by a reporter at the secretariat. The comment rattled the FM who could not keep his calm: “Journalists do not need a wage board. They are paid more than the govt officials and even if there is a pay structure it will be for the first 15 or 20 outlets, not for the rest.”

Senior journalists strongly contested his claim that journalists receive higher salaries than govt officials. In fact, they get much below than the salaries of public servants.The truth is that very few media outlets follow the pay scale set by journalists.

Just before the next big annual festival, The Bakri Eid, his announcement disheartened many journalists who take an overwhelming risks that merely matched by what they receive at the end of the month. And it is a profession that is despised by all the political parties, security agencies and business people alike. Moreover, a journalist is not a highly sought after groom in a country where public servants, engineering graduates and doctors top the list of preferred grooms. So FM’s comment hit hard a noble profession, where a good number of journalists still stick to their code book of ethics.
The mischievous smile of the Information Minister, who was enjoying the comment, rubbed salt into their wounds.

But the FM’s remark has some truth. There is an explosion of media outlets. And many of them are not on a par with the standards set by the highest circulated dailies.  Advertisement of public offices fatten them while the professionals live off what the market offers them. Partisan journalists grab the govt facilities intended for professional ones.

Successful corporate houses tend to embark on media businesses as a mean to ward off rivals’ campaign and to safeguard its business interests in a  corrupt business atmosphere.

Before going further, I frankly apologize to the persons who will feel offended  by  my observations that I am going to present.

The recent spat on pay row caused a schism in the journalist community. There is a group that rallies behind the govt, yet they back the demand of new pay scale. They are the elite owners and editors.

One of the stark features of our media industry is that the lefts , who share power with the govt , hold sway over here. Either the owner or the editor or the chief news editor of a news outlet is former leader of the Student Union, student wing of the Communist Party or a JaShod activist or a leader of Chhatra League, student wing of the ruling party. I am not anti-left , nor am I against everything they embark on.

As long as the former comrades stick to  professionalism, there is no problem.

But when former rule breakers set rules for others and lay down the terms , problems start to brew.

Their rise to the key positions in media outlets is indeed a puzzling thing in a Muslim majority country, where democracy was derailed by men in fatigues.

Answer lies to the procurement of military hardware by Bangladesh armed forces. Having surrounded by a big neighbor to whom every country wants to sell weapons , no country wants to be in the bad book of India by selling arms to its rivals.
Moreover western democratic countries have many laws that bar these countries selling arms to regimes that rose to power ousting democratic governments.

Other countries do not have these restrictions. Many of these countries are ruled by the communists or government officials of former communist governments.
They are very generous to come forward to the aid of their comrades of other countries. Ambitious Generals find them useful pawn to set them against other mainstream political parties.

Even bigots of other countries provided monetary assistance to their political projects. It is pretty much known that the Information minister and his party had ties with the regime of Colonel Gaddafi.

No wonder their rise to key institutions including public university takes place when extra constitutional force is in power.
Recently, big ticket arms purchase and big infrastructural projects coincided with their stunning empowerment in politics.

Well the arms are being procured from former and current communist countries. The countries also finance some big projects that yield lucrative commission.

The problem with ideological groups is that they defend their interests like a badger. While the radical rights are cornered, we let the radical lefts to ascend the staircase to power. But both of them are simply two opposing sides of the same coin, which is made up of hate , ego, arrogance and a complete denial to accept anything different from their own views.

That is why there are twisted reports, malicious campaigns against the persons they dislike, demonization of systems and views that they do not like, lack of respects for people or groups holding different views , willful suppression of reports of corruption and nepotism by fellow comrades holding key positions in the government.

Once they took refuge in media outlets to evade the onslaught of hostile governments. These outlets were their  sources of bread and butter. Now their policies and stance have taken a heavy toll on the media and journalists.

Do not want to buy the observations just put forward? Please prepare a checklist of facts, do your own research and tick the facts that will match your own findings.

It is a great shame that the anarchists took full advantage of democratic space and all the governments empowered them. Now look what they have done. They have brought us to a dead end on the path of democracy.

Key institutions that ensure checks and balances in a democracy have come to a stand-off. Fingers are pointing at them.

FM correctly observed that the media industry and the financial market are saturated.  Over the course of time  banks and media outlets must merge to meet the challenges of the market. If market is to judge about who will stay and who will quit, then FM does not have any trouble to introduce the 9th wage board.

The subtlest protest came from within the journalist community. Having seen the chances of the 9th wage board are slim, one journalist changed his Facebook profile picture into a comment attributed to former Libyan dictator Col Gaddafi. No clue whether he really made the comment. It reads:
“All journalists are government officials.”

Please oblige the supreme leader.


From → Analysis

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