Should We Encourage
involvement with a lifestyle magazine, which partially tries
to imitate India's Femina, is making me learn many things about
life and society in my country. However, sometimes my wits seem
to get beaten when we sit together for planning the contents
for the upcoming issues. The extent of ignorance - which tantamounts
to naïveté - about life and what we want out of
life often leaves me in deep bewilderment.
At a recent
meeting an editorial assistant came up with the idea to run
a story on "how to dump your significant other" in
the "relationship" section. Wow! What a subject to
write on! Finding the topic quite sellable, the executive editor,
in his feat of excitement, wasted no time in assigning it to
someone very good in using saucy language. My strong protest
received an overt dismissal along with a hum of laughter from
those present at the meeting. I bowed out with a sense of dejection,
but stuck to the idea of not running a story on such a topic.
of my protest was that I didn't want to educate the readers
on dumping one's boyfriend or girlfriend - which in simple words
means to give tips on break-ups. I may sound old fashioned,
but I didn't want to offer tips on breaking up relationships,
for I believe that the social responsibility of the media goes
much further than just making profits by selling a magazine.
I would rather want to print a story on "how to heal relationships".
I'm not a dogmatic character and certainly don't negate the
need for breaking up relationships when they don't work. Whether
we like it or not break-ups will take place, relationship between
two humans, as in any relationship, will take its own due course.
But providing tips on breaking up of relationships would be
to totally block all hopes for those decaying relationships,
which given a sincere chance and counselling, might work again.
If as a
human, I want to look at the positive side of a situation, why
should it be different when I'm looking at it from a journalist's
point of view? We journalist always go gaga about press freedom.
However, most of the time, we tend to forget that with freedom
also comes responsibility. Allow me to offer an example from
Ekushey Television days.
and Hindus were engaged in a riot in the Indian state of Gujarat
back in 2002, my Chief News Editor told us not to even utter
the words "Muslims" and "Hindus" while writing
the scripts. From our newsroom, we simply said that "people
were killed when violence between the mobs erupted". For,
we were fearing unrest among the people in Bangladesh, because
it was a "Hindus-Muslim" issue and people might react
negatively when they hear this news. My CNE's decision may have
gone against the thumb rule of a newsman - which is to inform
correctly - but for that moment, with very limited scale, we
tried our best to keep troubles away.
at the BBC. The Hutton Report had placed the harshest possible
spotlight on the social responsibility of the media - a light
that has not been flattering to the BBC. Well, the media in
the UK is one of the most diverse in the world, and it is full
of contradictions. On the one hand, they have channels like
BBC, which generally has upheld pretty high standards of impartiality
throughout its history, and is imbued with a public service
ethos that has influenced many other followers across the world.
On the other,
they have the real shark pool. The tabloid newspapers that will
quite cheerfully destroy anyone that gets in their way, and
apparently likes nothing better than to chalk up the scalp of
a government minister or celebrity following some vitriolic
campaign. These are the companies that employ the paparazzi
who hound celebrities without mercy. One UK newspaper recently
took to publishing front page photographs of 'up-skirt' shots
of female celebrities- - that's about as low as it gets.
question is: on part of a media company, was it a socially responsible
act? Well, when a media company is at its best, it can have
a hugely positive impact on society. What is the social responsibility
of a media company, then? Surely, to tell the truth. To accord
people a general expectation of privacy and dignity. To expose
wrongs, but equally to allow that no-one is perfect. To entertain,
for sure, but also to inform.
editorial board of the lifestyle magazine I'm talking about
is certainly trying to entertain it readers. But in the process,
wouldn't the impact we might be creating among them by running
a story on "ending relationships" be negative? It's
bound to be so. For, Bangladesh has not yet turned into a country
where humans wait for break-up tips from a media company. On
the contrary, people here, with a deep sense of social value,
would want tips on how to fix their about-to-break-up relationships.
society need to be like countries such as Japan and Korea where
they sell "A Perfect Divorce Manual" and TV programmes
on ending relationships?
I strongly disagree.
Kabir is a Dhaka-based journalist.