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A Fearless Voice

Passionate about his work to the level of being obsessive, ABM Musa was a man who feared none

Ananta Yusuf
ABM Musa
ABM Musa

Once there was a school boy who walked 10 km from his village Dharmapur to see Mahatma Gandhi in Noakhali. He walked on bare foot to hear the great leader preach against the rioting violence, returning home with an enlightened heart. Gandhi had such an impact on the young man's heart that he took it upon him to spread the great man's teachings in his village. Even as a young boy, ABM Musa knew the importance of spreading news and information. And that's probably why we mourn the loss of a man who never parted with the honour of his profession till he breathed his last at the age of 83.
The iconic journalist was born on February 28, 1931 in Feni. Musa was best known for his trenchant statements, his sharp humour, and an abiding love for his country. He was remembered for his fearless attitude, his love for his work, his generous encouragement and, most of all, his frankness.
In the centre of Dhaka lies a pitch road which leads to a big two-storied house which is the second home to many leading journalists of the city. Musa was the founder member of the National Press Club. And he was elected its general secretary thrice and its president for four times. For journalists who lived in Dhaka's charmed circle, every evening was a magical time. That was the time to visit the Press Club, to sit for a cup of tea with toast biscuits. It was a tradition that was rarely broken. In the mid-fifties, young journalists like Kamal Lohani would visit the Press Club to chat with ABM Musa and other veteran journalists.      
In 1950, Musa started his career as a journalist with the then Daily Insaf. However, in the same year he moved to the Pakistan Observer as a sub-editor. Mid fifties to the early sixties was a crucial time for the newspaper business. At that time, Musa played a crucial role. He was the first person from East Pakistan who got the Commonwealth Press Union Fellowship and went to England. When he came back, he changed the entire look of the Pakistan Observer. For the first time in the history of the paper, he introduced modern printing methods, including new styles in design layouts.
At that time, newspaper houses would use the photos captured by studio photographers for their daily news. But Musa changed the practice. He was the first to introduce professional photographers in the newspaper business. And consequently, the popularity of the Pakistan Observer soared to such heights that other newspaper houses had to follow the new styles. Veteran journalist Kamal Lohani believes that this was the beginning of the modern newspaper in Bangladesh. “He led the way to modernity in journalism,” adds Lohani.         
Lohani stresses that clarity and objectivity were two distinctive characteristics of Musa. He says, “Musa bhai was very precise while dictating assignments to his reporters in the newsroom.”
In the mid sixties, Musa changed the number and wordings of his car's number plate to spell 'Bangla.' This act was seen as a form of rebellion by the Pakistani government, and he faced a lot of harassment from the government for this simple act of patriotism. However, Musa never budged from his stance, and refused to change the number plate.  

Photo: Ramadipom Basu
Photo: Ramadipom Basu

A close disciple of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Musa drew a vivid picture of his long association with the founding president of Bangladesh in his only book 'Mujib Bhai.' There he wrote that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would always jokingly refer to the journalistic trio of Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury, Faiz Ahmed and ABM Musa as 'aapod-bipod-musibot' (trouble, danger, and nuisance).
Although he was not interested in politics but when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided that Musa needed to be by his side as a lawmaker, Musa heeded the advice. He participated in the 1973 general elections from the Feni constituency and even won. However, a new career in politics ended after the tragedy of August 1975. After that he returned to the newsroom and served the nation for sixty years as a journalist. In his last years, he wrote in different newspapers as a columnist and appeared on various talk shows on many television channels, offering the nation wisdom and courage to fight against corruption and filthy politics.
As General Douglas MacArthur coined in his farewell speech, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” And like the old soldier of MacArthur's speech, ABM Musa has just faded away from our worldly realms but he will remain in our history forever.

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In Brief
ABM Musa had a career spanning 60 years in journalism. Here's a brief look at his career as a journalist and politician.
!At the age of 19 he joined a local newspaper of Feni called “Saptahik Qaifiat”.
!However, he started his professional career with 'Dainik Insaaf' in Dhaka, in 1950.
!Afterwards Musa joined The Pakistan Observer.
!During the 1952 Language Movement when 'The Pakistan Observer' was closed down, Musa joined 'Sangbad'.
But he returned to The Pakistan Observer when the newspaper resumed its publication in 1954 and was with it till 1971.
!During the liberation war, he worked as a correspondent of BBC and Sunday Times. Through his writing, he believed that he was able to play a crucial role in building international support for the war.
!After independence, Musa joined Bangladesh Television (BTV) as its director general and later became editor of the then Morning News.
!As an Awami League candidate, he was also elected Member of Parliament (MP) from Feni in 1973.
!The veteran journalist joined BSS as its managing director and chief editor on May 15 in 1985 and was with the national news agency till March 23, 1987.
!Later, he joined Daily Jugantar as its editor in 2005 and worked there for about a year.
!He got the Ekushey Padak and many other awards for his outstanding contribution to journalism.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, April 18, 2014

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