Embedded Journalism: Prothom Alo & the history of intimidation of journalists in Bangladesh

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Published on April 2, 2023
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BNP leaders and activists brutally beat up the journalists whom they had invited to an Iftar event in Pallabi the capital on March 31. This is not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Last year on September 26, during a rally in Dhanmondi, BNP leaders recklessly attacked journalists, breaking the cameras of television journalists. In the most recent incident, hundreds of BNP leaders and activists publicly surrounded and beat up the journalists. This is a shameful event in the history of independent Bangladesh. It is concerning that if BNP comes to power, they may continue to torture journalists, as they have done in the past.

The BNP-Jamaat alliance has a history of killing journalists. During Khaleda Zia's regime from 2001 to 2006, BNP leaders tortured hundreds of journalists. Additionally, Tarique Rahman's cadres have brutally killed around 20 journalists.

Now, how is Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the leader of BNP, raising questions about journalists? On the same day that he criticized the detention of a Prothom Alo journalist, leaders of his party brutally beat up journalists in front of him. However, people have not forgotten the BNP-Jamaat alliance's past of massacring journalists, educationists, and cultural activists from 2001 to 2006.

Despite this, Mirza Fakhrul is questioning the detention of Prothom Alo journalist Shamsuzzaman. However, the journalist had to face the law because of the controversy created by Prothom Alo on Independence Day. Unlike the BNP-Jamaat alliance, the current government does not believe in killings and torture and has allowed the law to take its course. Mirza Fakhrul’s anger is even after being in the Awami League government, party leaders and activists are not taking the law into their own hands, but seeking legal procedures against unprofessionalism.

The dictatorial leaders of BNP have not only beaten up journalists but have also killed journalists in the past with the help of Tarique Rahman, and persecuted half a hundred journalists brutally. On the other hand, the Bangladesh Awami League, as a democratic party, has never committed such atrocities and never will, as they firmly believe in the rule of law.

The answer to Mirza Fakhrul's provocative question about the detention of Prothom Alo journalist Shamsuzzaman is unfounded as the controversial report recently published by the newspaper was ill-intended and ill-motivated, and the journalist is directly connected to it. According to journalistic rules, this report is a form of "embedded journalism," which in the Bangladeshi context means "purposefully prepared news" aimed at protecting the interests of one group while vilifying others.

Prothom Alo produced a report with a special agenda to target the Awami League government and create public opinion against them, on a special day like Independence Day. Media experts have stated two types of news theory based on research on the influence of media on public opinion. The first is the public agenda, which means publishing what happens as news. The second is the media agenda, which means a media think tank first decides what news will be published to achieve their own goals, then creates the news in any way and presents it to the audience, thus controlling the minds of the masses through the news. Prothom Alo has followed the second approach here.

Prothom Alo journalists created a news story on Independence Day with a specific agenda to target the Awami League government and create public opinion against them. They used a photo of an ignorant child with money, even though the photo had no relevance to the news story. The journalist who convinced the child to have the photo taken in exchange for money questioned objective journalism. The editors distorted the information to fabricate a news story. Creating such ill-intended news on Independence Day is a crime tantamount to treason, as it incites a campaign of domestic incitement and prepares the ground for international conspiracies against the state.

Bangladesh Awami League and its leaders and activists have always upheld the rule of law and will continue to do so in the future. Any conspiracies against the country will be dealt with systematically through the existing laws of the country, as a responsible and patriotic citizen. It is important to distinguish between criticism of the government and anti-government activism - they are not the same thing. The country's honour and dignity must be upheld, and everyone must work together to maintain Bangladesh's prestigious position in the international arena. Therefore, all forms of anti-state activism must be opposed.