Hasina, Khaleda mindful of tasks ahead

“Both are mindful of the tasks ahead to keep the all-important political process on track, regardless of the rhetoric in public,” Khalidi said, addressing a high-profile gathering of politicians, intellectuals, bureaucrats, corporate big-wigs and cultural personalities at bdnews24.com’s seventh anniversary celebrations in capital Dhaka on Wednesday.

Khalidi, who had had the opportunity to meet the country’s two top leaders over the past few days, said both the leading ladies in Bangladesh’s politics wished bdnews24.com well.

“I am grateful for the support both provide us in our regular newsgathering work,” Khalidi said.

Khalidi welcomed the dignitaries among whom were the Deputy Speaker, Finance Minister, BNP policymakers, leaders of other political parties, judges of the Supreme Court, the Election Commissioners, diplomats, editors, civil servants — the Cabinet Secretary, Foreign Secretary, Energy Secretary, the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary — the generals, admirals, air marshals, business and advertising industry leaders, and sport, film and television celebrities.

“Journalism is no business of the faint-hearted. If it is the business of writing the first rough draft of history,” Khalidi said, drawing from Washington Post publisher Philip Graham’s aphoristic observation.

And that job was all the more difficult, he said, in a country where “we often bicker about distortion of history”.

Bangladesh, with its different forms of arbitrary governance, had not been a bed of roses for newsmen, Khalidi felt. “We have seen how bad it gets when the rule of regular law takes a back seat — especially in 2007-8.

Khalidi, in an outspoken vein, said the country’s decision-makers — also it biggest newsmakers — “lacked commitment to the growth and development of a healthy, professional media environment in Bangladesh”.

“The short-term gains they targeted resulted in some politicians or their cronies and opportunist businessmen owning most of the media companies.”

The senior journalist wondered whether those that doled out favours would benefit in the long run. “But going by the experience during the 2008 elections,” he said, “they stand a slim chance. The lessons have never been learnt.”

He said bdnews24.com has been waging a single-minded war against this brand of journalism “that has destroyed democratic values, undermined and weakened institutions, and created distortions in various forms across our socio-political spectrum”.

The Editor-in-Chief said bdnews24.com was a stickler for accuracy, giving people news as it happened.

“Since Day One, I have been telling my colleagues — ‘we don’t have to be first all the time, we don’t mind being second or third at times, but we must be accurate every time’,” he said, stressing the importance of “editorial gatekeeping”.

“Politicking is not media’s business,” he said, driving home the point that politics and journalism rarely merged.

“We do not support any media entity getting engaged in changing regimes. We do cover politics, analyse or comment on political developments but getting involved directly should not be in our scheme of things,” observed Khalidi.

For young, starry-eyed aspirants hoping to join this profession, the bdnews24.com Editor-in-Chief had bit of sobering advice.

“To the young and the new-comers to our profession, I often say, if you’re just looking for a job, please don’t get into journalism. If you are not passionate about it, try some other profession.

“If you are one of those who incite religious hatred or defame individuals on blogs or social media, I do not want you because this is plain and simple crime.

“If you believe that being a journalist means you are free to write just anything then you are not fit to be one because dream of absolute free speech is a delusion and a myth that no society has ever granted.

“Speech must be responsible to be free, and there is a social and cultural necessity for freedom of responsible speech.

“If you think the media leaders have a right to conspire against the political process, then I am not welcoming you.”

Source: Bd news24