Newspapers in the Time of War | The Daily Star
12:05 AM, December 13, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:39 PM, December 11, 2013


Newspapers in the Time of War

During the turbulent months of 1971, people from all sections came out with whatever they had to protest against the occupiers. While the Freedom Fighters fought the enemy, the print media tried its best to protest against the atrocities, defying the risk of arrests, bans or worse. At the time journalists and the common people took the responsibility of bringing out these newspapers. Their words became the voice for emancipation, the voice of the people.

newspaper ‘Shaptahik Bangladesh’ (Weekly Bangladesh).

The Pakistani military regime had taken all means of suppression and made a botched attempt to abort the birth of Bangladesh from the black spring of March 25, 1971. There was constant surveillance and censorship on the press and all publications in general. The Pakistani regime, moreover, started publishing newspapers from March 29 to spread its propaganda.
Despite all the obvious risks, to lift public morale against continuous crackdowns and mass killings, people from all over the country, be it the common people, freedom fighters and intellectuals began publishing daily newspapers and different periodicals.
At the beginning of the war, most of these newspapers were published by those close to the freedom fighters. But because of the non-political stance of these pioneers, they were isolated. In the course of time, these papers disappeared or were absorbed into bigger papers.
During the war from March 25 to 31 the three leading newspapers-- Dainik Ittefaq, The people and Sangbad published from Dhaka, were burnt down by the Pakistani army in course of their operation. Hasina Ahmed a veteran researcher and the Associate Editor of “The Journal of Social Studies” believes that there was an urgent need for newspaper publications, and so the common people and freedom fighters took the initiative to set up secret newspaper houses in the country. “1971 Muktijuddher Potropotrika” a research book written by Hasina Ahmed, recounts that with the help of freedom fighters, journalists brought out the latest information about the war and made public unity against Pakistani militants. At the time almost 65 newspapers were published - Most of them were weeklies and a few of them were dailies. Three newspapers had English editions.
In the early sixties, the military government of Ayub Khan enforced a law called the “Press and Publications Ordinance” to keep the newspapers under government's control. The black law became the biggest weapon for the occupiers during the liberation war. The salient features had been used drastically to control information. Journalists were bound to revise news content by the District magistrate. According to Hasina Ahmed, a military press advice authorized in July reads that the newspapers could not use words like-- Bangladesh, ganabahini, muktijoddha/muktifouz and joy Bangla. Instead of muktijoddha/muktifouz the dictator advised to use the word 'rebel' or 'Indian agents'.

‘Joy Bangla, Banglar Joy’ – the headline in Dainik Azadi. ‘Joy Bangla, Banglar Joy’ – the headline in Dainik Azadi.

The occupiers took over the daily national newspapers but a few were running independently denying the dictator's censorship. And a few were running from Mujibnagar and different places in India, including Calcutta. Among them the most popular newspapers were – The Daily Ajadi published from Chittagong and considered as one of the first newspapers that appeared just after independence on December 17, Banglar Bani a well written newspaper published from Calcutta, Joy Bangla from Naogaon, Joybangla a mouthpiece of Awami League published from Mujibnagar, Muktijuddho a mouthpiece of the Communist Party Bangladesh, Jagroto Bangla, Shangrami Bangla, Shadhin Bangla, Shonar Bangla, Desh Bangla, Notun Bangla, Shaptahik Bangla, Durjoy Bangla, Mukta Bangla, Biplobi Bangla, Ronagon, Dabanol, Agradut and Janmabhumi.
Most of these newspapers were printed in cyclostyle, a duplicating process of stencil copying with the help of small-toothed wheels on a special paper, which serves as a printing form. Most of the newspapers and periodicals were two to eight pages, printed in a single colour. The content was mostly sketches of war scenarios in Bangladesh depicting the struggle of people and news of victory of the freedom fighters. The newspapers, periodicals and journals, articles, comments and editorials were a huge source of inspiration for the common people.
Ironically, during the war The Daily Sangram, the lone newspaper known as the mouthpiece of Jamaat-e-Islami, carried evidence enough to expose Jamaat's anti-liberation roles. For that reason Sangram has been used as one of the major sources of evidence against the war criminals. During the war, the paper was used as a tool of black propaganda to break the spirit of the common people who were supporting the freedom fighters. For instance, an issue of the Sangram published on September 15, 1971 quoted Motiur Rahman Nizami, also the then commander-in-chief of Al Badr, as saying: "Every one of us should assume the role of a soldier of an Islamic country. With assistance of the poor and the oppressed, we must kill those who are engaged in the war against Pakistan and Islam."

Dainik Sangram (The Daily Sangram) Dainik Sangram (The Daily Sangram)

The same newspaper on the third page of its September 16, 1971 issue ran another report headlined “No force on earth will be able to destroy Pakistan". In the news report, Motiur Rahman Nizami called on people to face a conspiracy of the so-called Banga Daradi (Lover of Bengal). Although Sangram got huge financial backup from the military dictator it failed to manufacture a hegemonic consent in the country. Even though the number of readers was very low, from the headline to the editorial, the news format was designed in a way that people regarded it as their hope and source of news of the war. Forty three years has passed away but the heroic efforts of those newspapers continue to inspire the journalists of today's Bangladesh.

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