Eminent academic Dr Sakhawat Ali Khan yesterday said political allegiance is harmful for journalism.
He made the remark while delivering a lecture on “Interaction of Journalism and Politics in Bengal (1945-50)”, at the RC Majumdar auditorium of Dhaka University.
The lecture was the first of a series titled “Unpublished PhD Dissertation Speech” organised by Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation.
Sakhawat Ali Khan, an honorary professor of mass communication and journalism at Dhaka University, presented his PhD dissertation. He said politics was the main element of the major newspapers like Daily Azad, Morning News, Saptahik Millat etc during the 1940s and 50s.
“The role of the newspapers to much extent was provocative in the Muslim League-declared Direct Action Day and Great Calcutta Riot in 1946,” Sakhawat Ali Khan said.
These newspapers also did not have continuity on their position regarding state language of erstwhile East Pakistan in 1948. The Daily Azad, a prominent newspaper published from Kolkata in the 1940s, had spoken once in favour of Bangla and then for Urdu, he said.
After the independence of Bangladesh, people can express their opinions to some extent, he said, adding that politics is still the main element of newspapers, while corporate interests are quite big, he added.
“The government is not lenient about the newspapers. Even if the government is lenient, they [the newspapers] are not independent from big advertisers,” Sakhawat Ali told the audience.
“There are miles to go [for independent journalsim],” said the academic.
Chairing the session, noted educationist Professor Emeritus Serajul Islam Choudhury and the supervisor of Sakhawat Ali Khan's 1988 dissertation, called on the mass media to favour the interests of the common people and speak for justice, instead of being dominated by politics and financial interests.
“Journalism cannot be neutral. It has to favour common people and speak for justice,” he said.
Prof Serajul lamented that newspapers today are heavily influenced by politics and capital -- a trend not too different from that of newspapers in the region during the 1940 and '50s.
He said The Azad heavily supported the cause of Muslim League and played a role in the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan based on religion. It was also influenced by commercial interests.
The professor said the partition based on religion was a major tragedy for people of this region. There were 17 nations based on languages, and all these nations should have been independent since the British had left, he said.
“There wouldn't have been so much of communal problems now [if that had been done],” said Prof Serajul Islam.
Dr Ahrar Ahmad, director general of Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation, said they are trying to promote research and intellectual exercise on social sciences, arts and humanities from Bangladesh perspectives. “We still depend on foreign academics to learn about our society and culture. We need to come out of this colonial mindset,” he said.