Journalism is work of collecting, writing, editing and publishing report in newspapers and magazines or on television and radio for disseminating general as well as specialised information. In a broader sense, it also refers to works of persons professionally involved in mass communication, advertising, and public relations etc.
Journalism (reporting of incidents and dissemination of information) in its limited sense was prevalent there in Bengal and other parts of India even in ancient and medieval periods. In ancient India, inscriptions engraved on rocks or pillars served as a medium of information. Emperor Asoka, for example, had his Rock Edicts and Pillar Edicts posted all over his empire and even beyond. He engaged spies and overseers to collect information through out his empire. During the Sultanate period, the Barid-i-Mamalik or commissioner of intelligence used to serve the authorities with the information of the empire. The munhis or spies of Sultan Alauddin Khalji communicated even the most trivial things to the Sultan. The Mughal government had a network of news services the waqai-navis, sawanih-navis and khufia-navis. In addition there were harkarah and akhbarnavis for serving the royalties with general informant. The bhats, kathaks and narasundars used to provide the people with social and cultural information. However, due to despotic forms and character of the government and impossibility of reporting objectively, the proto-Journalism of Mughal Bengal could never grow into journalism in its proper sense.
Journalism with its modern characteristics originated from Europe in the eighteenth century. Due to colonial reasons, however, it began in Bengal ahead of many countries of Asia. The history of modern journalism in Bengal was inaugurated by James Augustus Hicky by publishing a weekly journal named Hicky's Bengal Gazette at Calcutta in January 1780. An advertisement of the paper read, `a weekly political and commercial paper open to all parties, but influenced by none'.
The year 1818 marks the beginning of Bengali journalism in undivided India. This year witnessed the publication of three Bangla newspapers bengal gazette (published from Calcutta), digdarshan (published from Calcutta) and Samachar Darpan (published from Sreerampore). The Bengal Gazette is said to have been published first which was followed by the Samachar Darpan and the Digdarshan. The first Bangla newspaper, the Samachar Darpan was published from serampore in 1818. The first weekly from Dhaka The Dacca News was published in 1856. The long lasting newspaper the Dhaka Prakash was first published in 1861 and the Dhaka Darpan in 1863.
Journalism as a profession took a new turn from the beginning of the twentieth century. Nationalist agitation, rise of Muslim nationalism, World War I, World War II and the introduction of representative government etc contributed to rapid demand of newspaper publication and increased in newspaper readership in this region. The partition of Bengal through the creation of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the emergence of Dhaka as the capital of East Bengal (East Pakistan) was the important factor that contributed a lot to the growth of journalism in Eastern Bengal.
After the creation of Pakistan a large number of owners/publishers and editors migrated from East Bengal to India. As a result, there had been created a vacuum in newspaper publication sector in the newly created eastern part (East Pakistan) of Pakistan. We find no newspaper was publishing from Dhaka at that time. Then the main newspapers in Dhaka were the Daily Azad, the Ittehad and the Morning News etc and those newspapers were used to publish from Kolkata. For political reality, in fact, those newspapers migrated to Dhaka within a year or two. Then the newspapers like the Ittefaq, the Sangabad, the Pakistan Observer etc came out from Dhaka which have been still considered as the pioneer newspapers (The Bangladesh Observer was declared closed in June 2010) of the country. According to recent media list (1 July 2010) as prepared by the Department of Film and Publications (DFP), Ministry of Information, Government of Bangladesh there are about 457 newspapers/periodicals published in Bangladesh now' [Dailies: Dhaka 92, Outside Dhaka (Mufassal) 192; Weekly: Dhaka 69, Outside Dhaka 55; Fortnightly: Dhaka 15, Outside Dhaka 03, Monthly: Dhaka 26, Outside Dhaka 04 and Quarterly: Dhaka 01]. Publication of newspapers initially during 1950's and then onwards after 1990 speaks a massive growth and development in the field of journalism since 1947 in this country.
At present the Daily Prothom Alo enjoying the status of the highest circulated daily in the country with 395710 copies circulation. The Daily Star having 40726 copies of circulation is enjoying the position as the highest circulated English daily in Bangladesh. Besides their circulation, the newspapers to a great extent are dependent on advertisement for their survival. The Dainik Azadi of Chittagong enjoys the position as the largest circulated newspaper published from outside Dhaka.
Beside print journalism the electronic journalism too has got a good grounding in Bangladesh. During the beginning of World War II, All India Radio (AIR) started radio broadcasting in this sub-continent in 1939. The AIR also started functioning at Dhaka with its centre named as Dhaka Dhoni Bistar Kendro. After the creation of Pakistan in 1947 it was named as Pakistan Radio Service and was functioning as a government owned establishment. From 1948 to 1971 it functioned with the name as Radio Pakistan under government ownership and control. After the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 again owned by the government it continued to function as Bangladesh Betar till 1975. After the killing of Bangabandhu in 1975 the government renamed the Bangladesh Betar as Radio Bangladesh. Since 1996 it has been again changed and functioning as Bangladesh Betar. The role of the serving people of radio was really praiseworthy during the War of Liberation of Bangladesh. The commissioning of swadhin bangla betar kendra in 1971 by them and the role of that radio station is ever mention worthy. At present beside Bangladesh Betar (Solely owned and controlled by the Government), there are about 04 private owned radio channels are airing their programme daily and contributing to flourish radio journalism in the country. Similarly, established in 1964 the Bangladesh Television (BTV) is also still owned and controlled by the government. Beside this government owned TV channel there are about 13/14 private TV channels those are contributing a lot in the process of growth and development of TV journalism in Bangladesh.
Newspaper publication and maintaining their continuity was not that easy job in this country. Right from the publication of Hicky's Gazette in 1780 the newspapers had to face many odds, hindrances and various types of obstacles in their course of publication. They had to face withdrawal of postal service facilities; passing of jail days of the editor/owner/journalists; to face monetary fine; closure of printing press or face torture-killing and /or to face the situation-`publication closed' etc. The rulers of this country at every phases have tried their best to control the press/journalism through passing or promulgating a number of acts/laws/ordinances like-Law no 15 or Caning Law (1857); Press and Registration of Books Act (1867); Vernacular Press Act (1878); Sea Customs Act (1878); Telegraph Act (1885)-Sec 5; Post Office Act (1898)-Secs: 27 (a) to (d); Criminal Procedure Act (1898); Indian Criminal Procedure Code: Sec 124 (a) to (d); Criminal Procedure Act (1898); Indian Criminal Procedure Code: Sec 124 (a) and 153 (a); Newspaper Incitement to Offense) Act (1880) Press Act (1910); State (Security against malice) Act (1922); Concealment of Government Information Act (1932); State (Security) Act- Sec 3 (1934); Pakistan Criminal Procedure Act, Pakistan Security Act (Sec 11 and 12); Press and Publication Ordinance (1960); Provincial Public Safety Acts; Border Crime Control Laws; Criminal Laws; Public Discipline Ordinances; Farmans during various Military and Civil Rules; The Printing Press and publications (Declaration and Registration) Act 1973 and Special Power Act (1974) etc. Only during the rule of Justice Sahabuddin in 1990 a few steps were taken to declare some prohibitive laws void. Besides, the introduction of Right to Information Act 2009 has been in rescue and help journalism of this country to go ahead under a positive environment.
Journalists have general union and branch-wise associations not only for promoting professional interests but also for developing professional trade unions that work as pressure groups in protecting their rights and privileges. The Press Council of Bangladesh looks into the promotion and ethical development of journalism in Bangladesh. Journalism is now pursed as a respectable career, though the political realities and muscle power prevailing in Bangladesh have at times made the profession challenging. For seeking truth and analyses of events and information objectively the general people turn more to the journalist than to public leaders and political parties. While gathering information and reporting an incidence, journalists often become targets of vested interest groups as well as the government. Thus assault or manhandling or even killing and maiming of journalists by the exposed vested interests is quite common in this country. Journalism is Bangladesh although still facing and going through some turmoil and turbulences; no doubt, it has been growing with enough professionalism in this country. [Shaikh Abdus Salam]