Renowned broadcaster and cultural personality Iqbal Bahar Choudhury has represented Bangladesh, and our language and culture in the Voice of America (VOA) for more than three decades. His contribution as a broadcast journalist made him a renowned figure among the Bengali speaking people worldwide.
Iqbal Bahar Choudhury was born in 1940 to a renowned Bengali Muslim family. His father Habibullah Bahar Choudhury was a famous politician and social activist. His mother, Anwara Bahar Choudhury, was a prominent female writer and activist for promoting women's education. Iqbal entered the cultural arena during his early years and used to perform in the children's programmes of Pakistan Radio. He got deeply involved in the cultural activities during 60s.
Iqbal recalls, “At that time I was a student of Economics Department of Dhaka University. I used to perform in theatres regularly. I took part in the Tagore Centenary (1961). I had worked with artistes such as Golam Mustafa, Fateh Lohani, Khurshedi Alam and many others.”
After graduation, Iqbal joined the Radio Pakistan as a broadcaster and after introducing television facility, he became one of the first television broadcasters in this land. While doing his job in electronic Media, Iqbal got the opportunity to serve the country more effectively.
“The Bengali crews of Pakistan Television used to visit Bangabandhu's place regularly and request him for his instructions. He used to inspire us all the time. Though there was surveillance and pressure from our West Pakistani bosses, we used to give preference and special treatment to the news related to the struggle for our self-determination and independence,” says Iqbal.
After the liberation war of 1971, Iqbal got the opportunity to cover some of the most significant moments in the history of Bangladesh. He was assigned to live telecast the historic home coming of Bangabandhu on January 10, 1972. Iqbal says, “Live telecast at that time in war torn Bangladesh was an unthinkable job. Millions of people gathered in the old airport to welcome the leader. Suddenly I was told to acquire a helicopter because I had no way to reach him from the ground. So, I rushed to the airport and requested a pilot to take me to the air. I had no idea whose helicopter that was but the pilot agreed and I flew to Suhrawardi Uddyan from Tejgaon and covered the ceremony from the air.”
In 1973, Iqbal left the country and joined the Bangla service of VOA. He served there for 33 years and retired in 2010 as the chief of Bangla service. In 2006, he single-handedly introduced the Bengali television service in VOA. Now in his mid 70s, Iqbal is still active in the cultural arena. He has published several albums of poetry recitation. He has also produced two documentary films; one on Begum Rokayea and another on his mother Anwara Bahar Choudhury.