Amid massive propaganda assault, pro-Awami League media outlets show stone-cold eerie silence


Awami League (AL), under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been in power for the past 15 years. During this long period, a large number of pro-AL individuals succeeded in becoming owners of private television channels and daily newspapers. Amongst them is Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, former advisor to the Prime Minister, who also owns The Daily Observer and DBS TV. Unfortunately, during the 2018 general election, media outlets owned by Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury were surprisingly silent and shy in countering adverse propaganda of AL’s arch political rivals – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI). When Mr. Chowdhury launched his newspaper and TV channel, veteran journalist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury had repeatedly written against these ventures claiming – Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury was having connections with Jamaat and was sent to perform hajj and umrah by this Islamist party.

Similarly, a large number of journalists have enjoyed multiple patronization from the ruling Awami League with expensive residential plots, apartments, businesses and foreign tours although most of them – if not all of them have taken shelter into the dark hole of silence now, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her party need their enthusiastic participation by writing for international media and effectively counter ongoing propaganda of BNP, Jamaat and other political and ideological opponents of AL.

Meanwhile, pro-BNP and pro-Jamaat activists are dominating social media platforms – such as Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter) with vile propaganda targeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League, which are merely countered by anyone except for Sajeeb Wazed Joy, son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Mohammad Arafat Ali, MP. Even BNP-Jamaat activists are leaving nasty comments on most of the Tweets of Mr. Joy and Arafat – with cruel and unpublishable comments. Under the existing Cyber Security Act of the country, such comments of BNP-Jamaat activists are tantamount to offense. But the government is not taking any steps in this regard. It is well anticipated that for the government and state machinery, attending such cyberbullying and cybercrimes may not be possible as they are busy with many important tasks to ensure a free, fair and credible election on January 7, 2024. Instead, Awami League’s cyber team should have been countering such vile propaganda and cyberbullying, which they are not doing.

Why? Possibly they are trying to lay low-profile thinking BNP-Jamaat may succeed in toppling Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from power and in case that happens, none of those pro-AL journalists, media houses and cyber activists are willing to risk their future.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed the office when Bangladesh had a single private TV channel. later, she  expanded the electronic media  by approving 43 more channels in her first five years. The AL’s 2009 manifesto aimed for a ‘Digital Bangladesh,’ leading to a diverse media landscape with digital, online, electronic, and print outlets.

Unfortunately, recent times have seen orchestrated propaganda and serious accusations against the government, fueling anti-state sentiments in Bangladesh. These efforts, often linked to BNP leaders abroad, have gained attention in foreign media. Surprisingly, Pro-AL figures and their media allies have chosen a subdued response, refraining from countering these narratives.

Before Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009 through a landslide victory during December 2008 general election, there were only handpicked number of private television channels in Bangladesh, namely, NTV (owned by BNP leader Musaddeq Ali Falu), RTV (owned by BNP leader Musaddeq Ali Falu), Bangla Vision (owned by BNP leader Sadeq Hussain Khoka), Boishakhi TV (indirectly owned by BNP leader Mirza Abbad), Diganta TV (owned by war criminal Mir Quashem Ali), Channel-One (owned by BNP leader Tarique Rahman’s business associate Giasuddin Al-Mamun), ETV, Channel-i (co-owned by Shykh Siraj, recipient of Ekushey Padak being a follower of ideology of Maj Gen Ziaur Rahman), Islamic TV (owned by Khaleda Zia’s younger brother Sayeed Iskander), DBC News (owned by was criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury), and ATN Bangla. During the 1/11 military-backed regime, these pro-BNP television channels – directly and indirectly played a role against Awami League, while Channel-i went further by airing an interview of Col (sacked) Abdur Rashid – one of the self-proclaimed killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The interview was conducted by Zillur Rahman, anchor of a talk-show named ‘Tritiyo Matra’ – while during the entire 2007-2008 period of military-backed regime, Mr. Rahman played a prominent role in demonizing Awami League and BNP thus promoting the “minus-two” formula.

Lately, during the past several years, Zillur Rahman, being patronized and promoted by Channel-i has been openly playing role against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League government, although Faridur Reza Sagar, managing director of this channel is considered as one of the confidantes of Sheikh Hasina. Still, no one dared questioning the role of a backstabber Channel-i because of the popular perception of Mr. Sagar’s previous image as a supporter of Awami League.

Meanwhile, during the past 15 years, there have been almost mushroom growth of private television channels, all of which are owned by leaders or supporters of Awami League. Surprisingly, none of these TV channels, except Ekattor TV, are playing a role in favor of the ruling party. Instead, Channel24, which is owned by AK Azad, Awami League’s candidate in the January 7 election has been running vile propaganda targeting the ruling party. On the other hand, BNP leader Sadeq Hussain Khoka’s Bangla Vision is openly playing the role of anti-Awami League propaganda machine thus causing significant harm to the government.

As a researcher and columnist writing for local and international media for the past many years, whenever I Google to find positive articles on Bangladesh, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Awami League, to my greatest surprise, I find quite a volume of articles especially in the international media which are being penned by a particular journalist who neither is a beneficiary nor belongs to the list of confidantes of the Prime Minister. It seems, for the past several years, this only individual has been countering anti-Bangladesh propaganda single-handedly – as a “one-man-army”.


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