I feel the emptiness. I will be direct. After the closure of Diganta Television and Islamic Television on the 6th of May at 4 am, television has not remained the same. Call it prejudice or one sided, but I have seen and heard the others. And they stink. By ‘others’, I refer to the hordes of TV channels prevalent on the cable television network in Bangladesh.
The biggest hurdle I have faced is in verifying news. The other television channels here have simply turned into alternative, more catchy and showy versions of the state owned Bangladesh television, in part since they have not being banned or taken off air by the government of Bangladesh. One thing which was shockingly prevalent since the events of the 6th of May, was the fact that the media have been mum in this connection. The calls by the bulk of the media themselves to open up Diganta and Islamic television have been feeble if not negligent.
The bulk of the media in Bangladesh are biased. Others are entertainment providers. Most are silent on issues that matter. The only television channel I have seen which has dared to counter the narrative of the government on the events of 6th May is Ekushey television (ETV), where reports ultimately finished each time on criticizing the Hefazat as well for their ‘Quran burning evil’ practices (perhaps a legacy of their inherent Islamophobia). Channels which dare to bring firebrand opposition minded talk show enthusiasts like Ashrafi Papiya and others ultimately go to commercial breaks each time some critical talk on the government comes up. One notable exception in this regard has got to be Tritiyo Matra on Channel I, one of the talk shows I personally admire. But it is like a drop of oil in an ocean of lies, ultimately unheard in the tide of yellow and targeted journalism.
The loudest and most incessant channels have been those with backing of the ruling party elite. Take for example the case of Independent TV (backed by Awami financier Salman F Rahman), which was broadcasting news the other day. Suddenly, out of nowhere came an ‘investigative report’ which began to ask questions about why Jamaat has still not been banned in Bangladesh. It criticized both the courts and the Election Commission for being slow in carrying out their duties. Another TV is Shomoy TV, with the blessing of state law minister Kamrul Islam, which regularly goes on witch hunt styled field trips to root out supposedly ‘jamaat connected criminals’, and even managed the other day to make Sohel Rana (owner of the ill-fated Rana Plaza) a BNP sheltered criminal. Still others have freely used government fed information as fact when much of such information needed verification. Take the example of the Shibir member killed in a ‘shootout’ with RAB-5 at Rajshahi a few days back. His family had claimed that he had been arrested by RAB 9 days prior to his killing. Not one television channel featured the claims of the bereaved family. So much news flows by, undisputed, unchallenged and unaccounted for. Hail the unquestioned flow of both selective and yellow journalism.
I shall say no more. The 17th of May was