Saturday, May 10, 2014

Decadence all around

Decadence all around
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Saturday, 10 May 2014
Author / Source: M. Serajul Islam

A joint news editor of a private TV channel was sacked because she criticised the owner in her Facebook status. Her criticisms were a few. First, she stated that the employees are not paid regularly; sometimes almost 2 months late and sometimes, paid half their salaries. Second, those who work till 12: 30 at night and supposed to be dropped at their homes by office vehicles are not because these vehicles are deputed to attend personal duties of the owner or the managing director. Third, the employees have to pay extra attention to programmes of the owner and treat these as national news. Finally, she asked herself the heart-rending question if she has sold herself by coming to work in the station.

Not too long ago, there was a news item in the newspapers about the state of affairs in the private TV channels. The item was similar to what this sacked TV joint news editor has written in her Facebook status; that in most of the TV stations, employees are not sure when they would receive their monthly salaries. On the stations making extra efforts to treat events of their owners as national news, all the private TV channels do this all the time, some so blatantly as to be almost detestable. There are major TV channels whose owners think they are worthy of national attention like the Prime Minister/Ministers and elected officials or individuals who have earned international recognition like Dr. Mohammed Yunus or Sir Fazle Hasan Abed.

The problem for this joint news editor and those who think such self-exposure of owners is detestable is that the laws cannot do anything about it. Thus when these channels show their owners who the viewers know are not any more worthy than any other member of the public like national leaders, they have to suffer in silence. In case of one such owner, the TV station he owns got a few well known individuals from the cultural front to discuss his literary works like he was about to win one of the country’s most prestigious awards or perhaps even win an international although those watching the show knew he was but a run of the mill author. There is another owner who is misusing his station to project himself as a national leader where without his station he is simply worthless.

The problems the joint news editor raised in her Facebook status are very serious ones. It reflects the general decline of morality in our society. We have changed into a society where money can buy status that laws and legality cannot question. Newspaper owners/editors do this all the time these days. Newspapers whose editors are owners of their papers do something that editors in no other capital would even think in a fit of madness. They write commentaries where they hold court of the elected leaders. Newspapers editors are respected everywhere. They write editorials as the watchdog of the public on issues of national interests so that those in government remain on the right track on issues of public interests. In fact, in other countries, the government weighs editorials in taking major decisions of the government and between the editors and those in government; the relationship is proactive and healthy.

Whether it is the fault of those in power or the inability of the editors, the government in Bangladesh cares very little about newspaper editorials. There is surely a quality of editorials involved. Also, Dhaka is perhaps the only capital where the government would have a valid point in ignoring the editorials that in other capitals can be taken lightly only at great risks for the government. Dhaka has simply too many newspapers to justify the need for the government to take editorials seriously. Therefore, the newspapers that assume they represent a voice of the country by the strength of their circulation write commentaries where they can take liberty with space that they don’t have with editorials. Unfortunately, notwithstan­ding the faults and limitations of the politicians, those elected by the people and form the government cannot be subjected to what these commentaries intend which is to lift the editors to the level of the top functionaries of the government, including the Prime Minister and hold court as judge, jury and the prosecutor and that too without giving those they try the right of defense!

The politicians are on a course that makes no sense; their actions are anything but democratic. The ruling party is not concerned that the vast majority of us did not vote it to power. Ours is a parliamentary democracy; yet our Prime Minister treats the party that is not in parliament not just as the opposition but one threatening to take power away from it. The “enforced disappearances”, kidnappings and extra judicial killings have become a nightmare for the nation where the law enforcing agencies are a major part of the problem together with part of the ruling party.  Naryangang has exposed the truth to the nation. 

Suranjit Sen has openly hinted there is a government within the government. Yet the Prime Minister sees BNP/Jamat hands in these acts.
The business sector is also showing the same signs of decadence. A news item carried widely in the Bangladesh media recently showed that there is only one known businessman among the country’s 10 richest men with a few worth over a billion US dollars! Another news item mentioned that the rich of the country have one step in the safer pastures of Singapore, Malaysia and Canada because they are not confident about the country’s future. 

In fact, poor Bangladesh is second in the list of countries that have invested in Malaysia’s programme for overseas investment in real estate.
The only genuine hope for the country’s economic future comes from the poor who work with their lives on the line in Middle East and Malaysia to send remittance in foreign exchange that is the only source of hope for the country. In 2013, Bangladesh received US$ 14.5 billion from its poor expatriates.  Unfortunately, with decay in politics and elsewhere in the society, it is just a matter of time that the remittance sector would become a victim to what is happening in the rest of the society.

Bangladesh is thus at a worse crossroad than in the tumultuous period of its history in 1971. The dangers in 1971 were humungous with a murderous military regime poised to kill to the last. It came out of it successfully because the nation fought the dangers united like a monolith. The nation today is divided in a manner that is unbelievable where those who are supposed to lead the major sectors of the society have become self-seekers in the worst ways imaginable. 

That would have been enough but not so because these self-seeking leaders of the society are exploiting the nation for their self interests but claiming that they are doing so for democracy, spirit of 1971 and whatever else goes with it. They are pouring salt to the injury of the silent majority in the country. It is therefore way past time to share the predicament of the joint news editor as that of each and every one of us who is no part of the self-seeking leaders of our society. It would be suicidal for us, as a country to think she is alone and not stand with her just as it would be suicidal to think the nightmare in Naryangang and rest of the country would vanish by the way the Prime Minister thinks it will by putting the blame on the BNP.  

It is time for the nation to rise individually as it did in 1971 and fight these self-seekers in the name of being our leaders in whatever way we can. Let us take heart not just from 1971 but also in the belief that it is little drops that make the nation. Let the little drops count to help Bangladesh find its moral/ethical moorings.

The writer is a retired career Ambassador. His email id is The views expressed above are the writer’s very own not necessarily shared by this paper

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