Bangladesh Television embarrasses the government with its black out

IN Media Freedom | 14/04/2002
Bangladesh Television embarrasses the government with its black out

Bangladesh Television embarrasses the government with its black out

The Bangladesh government has reprimanded officials of the tate-owned Bangladesh Television (BTV) and punished others for lapses in reporting a violent bomb explosion last month. A bomb blast which causes 22 deaths and injured a 100 was ignored during the prime time evening news bulletin.

On June 16 a bomb blast occurred at 9:00 pm, believed to have been trigged by a time-bomb. It wrecked the office of the ruling Awami League at Narayanganj, near capital Dhaka. The blast left 22 dead and among the scores who sustained grievous injuries was the member of parliament, Shamim Osman.

After receiving the news from different sources, thousands all over the country switched on BTV for visual news of one of the worst bomb explosions. Alas, BTV failed to broadcast anything at all. Within an hour the only private channel Ekushey Television (ETV) came with the "breaking news" and soon aired footage of the havoc and agony caused from the incident. The 300,000 subscribers of Grameen Phone mobile began receiving a news flash on the blast.

In the recent spate of bomb blasts from March 1999 until recently, 63 people have become victims of soft targets in at least six incidents in the capital and the countryside. The previous blasts still remain mysterious and little progress has been made in investigations. The bombs caused casualty to Islamic sects, the Christian community, communists, cultural audience and now political activists.

BTV possibly had time to broadcast the latest massacre. Both the private and state-owned news agencies have sent the news right after 10 pm. The BTV correspondent in Naryanganj phoned the newsroom soon after the English news broadcast began at 10:30 confirming the wire news. As is their wont, the newsroom simply sat on the news till they got a green signal from their political bosses. When the signal arrived they broadcast the news at 11:30 pm.

On the following day the Information Ministry issued a show cause notice to Farooq Alamgir, Additional Director General (News) to explain why the news and visuals of the carnage of the ruling party was not broadcast, despite advice from the State Minister for Information & Broadcasting. The Narayanganj correspondent of BTV was sacked and one other was barred from newscasting. Both were held responsible for "negligence of duties". The newsreader has been blamed for faltering during news broadcast of the blast, and for the fact that the broadcast itself was full of wrong pronunciations!

Several dailies expressed their frustration and criticised BTV. One newspaper "Dainik Jugantor" said "Shame on BTV". It asked whether death and mayhem are news or whether they constitute sensationalism? It also mentioned that during the prime-time several items regarding the Prime Minister`s itinerary were shown. Were those news more important than the carnage, it asked.

This has caused a serious embarrassment to BTV and the government too. Particularly against the background of half-hearted attempts to defranchise state-run television and hand it over to an autonomous authority. The Cabinet meeting last week instead of giving a seal of approval to these moves, asked the Ministry of Law to develop a bill for giving "limited" autonomy to the state-run radio Bangladesh Betar, and to BTV. The two electronic media will come under two separate institutions. A committee headed by bureaucrats and media practitioners has developed a code of conduct for news broadcasts. This "electronic news broadcast policy" will need formal approval of the government.

Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More