Media development organisations
Historically there were only a few organisations working in the field of media and journalism development in Bangladesh and that too on a limited scale. However, those first organisations have progressively become more active, while others have emerged in the past years.
Some international organisations like UNESCO, UNICEF, USAID, UNDP, Fojo, Internews also came forward with more assistance to develop the country’s ever-increasing media industry. Training and educating journalists on reporting, writing, norms and ethics have been the main focus of these organisations. Recently, journalists’ safety and security have also been prioritised. These organisations have no overt, direct affiliation with any political, religious or ethnic parties. Being self-funded, some come up with their own project plans and implement them while others do the job upon consultation with the affiliated media organisations or journalists.
There are two government-run organisations that have been working in the media field for over three decades. They are the Press Institution of Bangladesh (PIB) and the National Institute of Mass Communication (NIMCO). These two bodies can be considered the pioneers in providing training to journalists although their initial activities focused on basic journalistic trainings.
Established in 1976, PIB organises both long-term and short-term training sources, workshops, seminars and symposiums round the year and in various places of the country to increase professional knowledge and skills of journalists. It also holds issue-based training workshops and conducts research on some issues of media and mass communication and publishes books, journals and booklets. Currently, PIB runs a one-year Postgraduate Diploma Course in Journalism while a plan is underway to introduce a Masters in journalism in collaboration with the country’s National University in 2019.
NIMCO was established in 1980 and has carried on similar activities. However, it focuses more on providing practical knowledge to those working in electronic media, television and radio stations. It provides professional training for government officials, and also freelancers, personnel working in private radio and television stations, and film media. It has two modern Radio Studios, one TV Studio, four non-linear Video Editing Suites and a Computer Laboratory.
Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU), which is the largest body of reporters in Bangladesh, also regularly organises training workshops for its members every year. It has introduced annual best reporting awards for reporters. In addition, the Management of Resources Development Initiative (MRDI), the Bangladesh Centre for Development, Journalism and Communication (BCDJC), the Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC), Somashte, the Institute of Communication Studies (ICS), the Bangladesh Institute of Journalism and Electronic Media (BIJEM) and Drik are the non-government organisations that are working with media houses and journalists to improve journalism. Being one of the leaders, MRDI aims at improving the capacity building of journalists and develop standards in media. One of its completed projects is on Building Capacity of Journalists on Ethical Child Reporting while one of the ongoing programmes is Promoting News Literacy and Ethical Journalism, both under the grant of UNICEF. One of its latest programmes is the 36-month programme launched in September 2017 with the assistance of the Fojo Media Institute. Under this initiative, MRDI is working on a wide range of media issues such as improving qualitative and investigative reporting in Bangladesh in partnership with several media houses. Although MRDI is engaged in various other issues, recently it became a member of the Global Investigative Journalism Network and seems to be focusing on media and the promotion of the right and access to information. For example, it is now running a project on Strengthening Independent Media in Bangladesh in partnership with Internews.
Apart from organising trainings for journalists over the years, Samoshte is currently running a project titled Promoting Peace and Tolerance Through Media with the support of USAID’s Obirodh: Road to Tolerance Program. On this topic, it held a three-day training programme for journalists in April 2018. Under this project, journalists are especially being trained on how to cover issues of religious extremism which has become a major problem in the country.
ICS is a new but promising organisation supporting media professionals on various journalistic issues, including the safety and security of journalists, particularly women reporters. Recently, it trained 20 physically challenged youths on how to do reporting and a few of them are now in the profession.
BNNRC is working to promote communication through radios with special focus on rural communities. Apart from holding training workshops round-the-year under various programmes, it runs the project Independent Media in Bangladesh in partnership with Internews.
The journalists’ associations have little to do with independent journalism. Numerous associations are present all over the country but journalists are not united and hardly work for the professional cause. However, the national and regional associations raise their voice whenever journalists or media are under threat or attack. But this voice is not as strong as it should be because of the political affiliation of journalists. In the recent past, the journalists community sought unity and forged a strong movement against the attacks and intimidations of authorities on a certain media house or on the profession as a whole.
In October 2018, the government passed the Digital Security Act, a new law that is considered to further allow authorities to gag media and intimidate journalists. Journalists voiced concerns and demonstrated for several days but the protest wasn’t united and strong enough to influence the government to refrain from promulgating the act or amending its controversial provisions.