Mission Journal: Bangladeshi press reined in as Hasina exerts authority
April 2, Dhaka: Matiur Rahman Chowdhury has been the host of “Frontline,” a popular Bangla-language news show, for five years. Aired live three times a week, the show gained notoriety for bringing politicians, members of civil society, and journalists together to discuss current affairs. Chowdhury distinguished himself from many of his counterparts with his soft-spoken but firm demeanor as he led his guests in substantive discussion, rather than presiding over talking heads trying to drown one another out. At a time when much of the broadcast media in Bangladesh has become muted, talk shows like Chowdhury’s were one of the last spaces for critical news coverage.
Last month “Frontline” was suspended. Officially, the channel’s chairman cited “technical problems” that would temporarily halt the show, but journalists I spoke to during a trip to Bangladesh in February for the Committee to Protect Journalists, offered a contrary account. Several journalists, including Chowdhury, claimed authorities were behind efforts to suspend the show for political reasons. In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, authorities allegedly interfered by telling the privately owned broadcaster BanglaVision what guests would be allowed on its talk shows and what anchors it should remove, reports said. But Chowdhury refused to take orders.
More than six weeks later, the show remains off air. Its absence is a sign of the pressures faced by Bangladesh‘s independent media amid a backdrop of political turbulence. The Oslo Times Source: IFEX