Reazul Bashar and Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
Published: 2020-03-31 05:20:54 BdST
In Bangladesh, it has shuttered down a number of newspapers while some have stopped publishing print editions with the readers fearing infection from things outside of their homes.
Housebound amid a nationwide shutdown, they are glued to the TV and internet, but the electronic media have to bring changes in the way of their work as well due to the outbreak and restrictions on movement.
“The media face challenges both financially and in doing its job. We are going through a difficult time,” Saiful Alam, president of the National Press Club, told bdnews24.com.
A senior journalist of a leading daily, who usually spends all the day chasing news, is reporting from home now.
“I am staying at home at least for the people close to me if not for myself. They will be at risk if I get infected,” the journalist said.
The news-hungry reporters and photojournalists are not rushing to the spots now with important briefings and meetings being held online.
He said he needs to go out some times as he works on trade and essential consumer products. “I need to visit office once as well because the business page is being published. But there aren’t many people at office,” he said.
TV stations need larger workforce to film, edit and broadcast video.
A TV reporter said they have made rota in such a way that the staff are staying at office for three straight days and taking the next three days off.
Tushar Abdullah, head of news at Somoy TV, said, “There is no stopping. We must deliver the news. We are working in 12-hour shifts taking every other day off.”
He claimed Somoy has put in place measures for protecting their staff from the virus.
“We’ve arranged whatever is possible, such as transportation and protection inside the office,” he said.
With the government and private offices shut and gathering banned, there are fewer incidents to report now, which has made it easier to publish news with limited workforce, journalists from the newsrooms said.
Dhaka-based dailies the Manab Zamin and Deshkal have halted printing and gone online only.
Local newspapers in Sylhet, Sunamganj and some other areas have also announced a halt on print.
Newspaper sales have slumped by around 75 percent in Dhaka while the rate of decline is 90 percent in Chattogram, according to leaders of newspaper hawkers’ groups.
“This industry will be under threat of extinction if steps are not taken by people at responsible positions,” said Mobarak Hossain Titu, general manager of Dhaka Newspaper Hawkers’ Multipurpose Society.
Most of the newspapers published from the capital have cut down on the number of pages. A leading daily has halved the number of pages from 24 to 12.
Press Club President Saiful said: “The world is facing an unprecedented situation. The media workers are also faced with a major challenge. In Bangladesh, the challenge is profound and acute.”
“We have to work under different sorts of pressure, but the current situation is the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced,” he said.
Saiful, the editor of the daily Jugantor, said they were able to keep the online version running in a much better way than the print.
The economic impact of the pandemic has also hit the industry, he said.
“The number of ads is falling as government and private offices are shut. Our supply chain has collapsed. And we need to take the newspapers to the people after publication but many of the hawkers have gone home. Agents in many districts are refusing to take papers,” Saiful said.
The exodus of millions of people from the capital before the shutdown has also affected sales because they make up a large chunk of the readers, he added.