Owners shut Bangladesh Observer | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 09, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 09, 2010

Owners shut Bangladesh Observer

The Bangladesh Observer, the oldest English daily of the country, shut down yesterday.
Squabbling owners decided to close the long-suffering daily as journalists and employees, who were running the broadsheet since 1991, left.
The staff of the 60-year-old newspaper came out of the office around 11:00am yesterday after a labour court judge handed them cheques as per an agreement signed on October 25 last year between the Observer employees union and owners of the daily.
"As cheques of one third of the dues of working journalists and employees were handed over today, they [journalists and employees] left the Observer building and subsequently Concord Group which earlier purchased the land and the building took over," said the last editor of the daily Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury.
Journalists and employees of the newspaper early last year had launched a campaign for 78 months' arrears in pay. They had also approached the government to get their dues.
An audit report at the end of 2007 showed the paper had Tk 1.77 crore in cash and Tk 11.11 crore in cheques deposited with banks.
The High Court yesterday issued a ruling asking the authorities concerned of Al-Helal Printing and Publishers Ltd to explain within four weeks as to why they should not be directed to windup the press.
Chairman of Al-Helal Printing and Publishers Ltd, which publishes the Observer, Manjur Ahmed Chowdhury and its three directors have been asked to respond to the ruling.
Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed issued the ruling following a petition filed by 31 staff of The Bangladesh Observer who have not been paid for at least 11 years.
The court also fixed July 12 for further order on the petition.
The petitioners stated in the petition that the respondents have been running The Bangladesh Observer without following proper rules and laws.
The daily was first published as The Pakistan Observer by Hamidul Haque Chowdhury in 1949. In 1952, the paper was banned for its stance in favour of the Language Movement and East Pakistan's provincial autonomy.
In December 1971, it was renamed Bangladesh Observer and in 1972 the then government brought it under state control.
In 1984, president Ershad handed over its ownership back to Hamidul Haque Chowdhury.

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