TV talk-shows elevated Shahed to dizzying heights. Now embarrassed journalists deride him

  • Staff Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-07-25 19:43:59 BdST

He was a popular face on television: Mohammad Shahed. TV talk-shows gave him much of his social leverage, which he combined with his political clout into a colossal fraud scheme. Now journalists who were seen hanging out with him are embarrassed. Some regret their past, some try to wash their hands of him.

“It might have started with the casino, you never know how it will end. All the names are coming up. No-one will be spared, no matter how close they are to the government,” Mohammad Shahed said in a TV talk show last year.

Video of the programme is now being circulated on social media by netizens to deride Shahed alias Shahed Karim, who is behind bars over a series of alleged frauds after lecturing about morals in the shows for about eight years.

Having been identified as a political analyst, talk-show guest Shahed not only boasted about his own “sacrifices”, he even hosted a show.

Shahed’s YouTube channel shows he moderated at least 151 episodes of a talk-show titled Drishtikon on Mohona TV between November 2016 and March 2019.

He expressed views on matters ranging from politics to sociology, economics, international relations to medical science and space. 

Some of the hosts and media managers involved with the talk shows even promoted him while praising his views. Photos of several prominent journalists with Shahed have now begun surfacing on social media, with many raising questions about their role in his rise.

Shahed, the chairman of Regent Group, swindled thousands of unsuspecting patients out of millions of takas on the pretext of coronavirus treatment. His hospital churned out false COVID-19 reports in one of the biggest scams in Bangladesh’s fragile health sector.

The RAB sealed off the headquarters and two branches of Regent Hospital in Dhaka and traced the man to the frontier district of Satkhira as he was about to cross the border disguising himself in a burka. He was seen in soiled clothes after the arrest in a spectacular fall from grace.

Now that the misdeeds of the Regent Hospital chairman are coming to light, bdnews24.com has contacted these media personalities, who gave Shahed a platform, to get their views on what they make of the unsavoury revelations.

Shahed had been a familiar face on Channel i’s Tritiyo Matra, hosted by Zillur Rahman, since 2015

Shahed had been a familiar face on Channel i’s Tritiyo Matra, hosted by Zillur Rahman, since 2015

Zillur Rahman, the host of Channel i’s Tritiyo Matra, said Shahed joined his show as a member of the ruling Awami League’s subcommittee on international affairs.   

Shahed, however, had been a familiar face on the show since Oct 27, 2015, even before he became a member of the Awami League subcommittee in 2017.

A large portion of the clips of Shahed that have gone viral on social media are from Tritiyo Matra.

Zillur responded angrily to bdnews24.com's question about Shahed’s appearances on the show before he became a member of the subcommittee.

“Yes, he came to my show in 2015. Do you know since when he has been taking part in talk shows? Since 2010. So first ask the others why they invited Shahed on their shows,” Zillur said.   

Shahed appeared in at least 21 episodes of Tritiyo Matra, according to its Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Asked why Shahed had been given such priority, Zillur said, “You should ask how he got invited to events at Ganabhaban and Bangabhaban before asking me this question.”

Many journalists are also questioning the role of a section of the media in the rise of Shahed through “fraud”.   

“Now find out who in the media promoted Regent Hospital owner Shahed -- who was involved in the corona scandal? Who gave him political shelter?” journalist Anis Alamgir wrote in a Facebook post.

Journalist Gazi Nasiruddin Ahmed wrote that the photos of Shahed with the media managers would not seem odd if someone sees their academic background.

Many have alleged that Shahed capitalised on his appearances on talk shows as a tool to deceive people. 

Shahed was seen in the talk show presented by Anjan Roy on Ekushey Television and Gazi Television since 2015. Some of his photos with Anjan Roy, including those in private or social encounters such as in coffee shops, went viral on social media.

Many people have questioned whether journalist Anjan is somehow linked with Shahed's misdeeds.

"Shahed has photos with many people; all of them have personal relationships with him," Anjan told bdnews24.com.

"For me, all I can say is that I knew him just the way I knew other guests coming to my talk shows."

Shahed had "suddenly appeared" in a get-together, Anjan said when asked about a photo of the two of them during that event.

“He [Shahed] had a charming personality. We never thought that our photos would be misused.”

Anjan now believes it was an ‘unforgivable ignorance’ on his part for not knowing about the unscrupulous dealings of Shahed, who appeared on his talk shows on many occasions.

Syed Ishtiaque Reza and Anjan Roy hanging out with Shahed

Syed Ishtiaque Reza and Anjan Roy hanging out with Shahed

A person’s comment on Anjan Roy’s Facebook post

A person’s comment on Anjan Roy’s Facebook post

Netizens have complained that Shahed’s participation in the talk shows boosted his popularity and enabled him to enjoy undue advantages.

“A cunning person can use multiple identities to his advantage. Shahed did exactly that. He used different identities at different places,” Anjan said.

Everyone needs to rethink their criteria for inviting guests to a talk show after this debacle, according to him. “We should know the background of a person before inviting him.”

Syed Ishtiaque Reza, editor-in-chief of GTV and Sharabangla, and Pranab Saha, editor of DBC News, were also seen flanking Shahed in photos taken at Bangabhaban on Independence Day in 2018 and in several other social or private get-togethers.

Speculation has also been rife about Reza's links to the disgraced businessman based on a Facebook post made by Shahed on Mar 7, 2018, regarding the foundation of a television station.

Shahed’s Facebook post on his wish to launch a TV channel

Shahed’s Facebook post on his wish to launch a TV channel

Ishtiaque Reza and Pranab Saha with Shahed at Bangabhaban’s Independence Day function in 2018

Ishtiaque Reza and Pranab Saha with Shahed at Bangabhaban’s Independence Day function in 2018

“Finally, I've decided to open a television channel. Please pray for me. Thanks to Reza Bhai for making it easy for me to take the decision,” Shahed wrote in the post.

The “Reza” mentioned in Shahed’s post could be anyone and not just him, said Ishtiaque Reza. “Even if I'd suggested that he open a television channel, there is nothing wrong with it,” he said.

The entire fiasco has exposed shortcomings of the media sector, he added.

“Sometimes we accept many things before verifying them. Sometimes we patronise someone climbing up the social ladder or carving out a  political niche. I would say that it is an institutionalised mistake of the media sector.”

Journalist Reza declined to comment on the photos he took with Shahed.

Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Ishtiaque Reza and others having fun with Shahed at Bangabhaban’s Independence Day function in 2018

Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Ishtiaque Reza and others having fun with Shahed at Bangabhaban’s Independence Day function in 2018

Bulbul says many people like Shahed treated him to sweets after he won the BFUJ election for the third time

Bulbul says many people like Shahed treated him to sweets after he won the BFUJ election for the third time

Shahed’s photographs with journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul are also available on social media. These include their photographs in a programme at Bangabhaban in 2018.

“In one photo, he treated me to sweets after I won the BFUJ election for the third time. Many people treated me to sweets that day and I didn’t single out any one of them,” said the journalist.

The other photos were taken on the founding anniversary event of a television channel and in Bangabhaban, he said, adding people who visit a national programme can only do so after receiving a certain clearance.

“These photos do not mean I have a personal, familial or business relationship with him. There is no photo of me with Shahed in a hotel lobby or in somebody’s office. You can’t mix up personal photos with those clicked in a formal event,” said Bulbul.

“There should be a detailed probe to see if Shahed had taken any advantage of the talk shows or misused his connection with journalists or if any journalist took any advantage from their association with him.”

Shahed’s photos with Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta, Ekattor TV's Chief Editor Mozammel Babu and Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists Secretary-General Shaban Mahmood are also doing the rounds on Facebook.

Shahed’s selfie with Mozammel Babu

Shahed’s selfie with Mozammel Babu

Shahed posted to Facebook photos with many familiar faces at a programme on Oct 15, 2018.

“A beautiful get-together programme by Ekattor TV Managing Director Mozammel Babu Bhai,” he wrote in the description.

Host Farzana Rupa in an Ekattor Journal episode appeared to be waxing lyrical about Regent Hospital in the second week of April.

It included a detailed interview of Dr Nusrat Jahan, the medical officer at Regent’s intensive care unit, on the health care system at the hospital owned by Shahed.

“Regent Hospital in Uttara is slightly ahead of the hospitals that have declared to join the coronavirus treatment today,” was how Rupa introduced the hospital at the programme.

“I can recall that the locals demonstrated against the hospital when it moved for the treatment of coronavirus patients on Mar 25-26 following an announcement. Certainly the doctors, nurses and health workers of the hospital who braved all odds are on the first row of the frontline workers that have come forward to treat helpless patients.

“They will step forward when you or I won’t be able to breathe,” she added.

Babu told bdnews24.com that Shahed had created traps to dupe people by taking photos with them at programmes. “But he could not get away with it. He has been caught.”

Shaban Mahmood says Shahed took a photo with him at the wedding of home minister’s daughter

Shaban Mahmood says Shahed took a photo with him at the wedding of home minister’s daughter

Shahed’s selfie with Shyamal Dutta at Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Iftar party in 2017

Shahed’s selfie with Shyamal Dutta at Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Iftar party in 2017

Mahmood, special correspondent at Bangladesh Pratidin, said he had not known Shahed personally and had only one photo with him at the wedding ceremony of the home minister’s daughter. “We were both guests. I don’t know how he ended up next to me when I was taking a photo with the minister.”   

He added that he had talked to the Regent Group boss after the coronavirus broke out and Shahed helped him get journalists admitted to the hospital.

“I don’t understand how the people in the talk shows brought him on. They should have checked which identity he used to appear on the talk shows.”

Dutta said Shahed took photos with him at two functions. “We can’t forbid someone if they want to take a photo.”

Shahed “cleverly” used the media and other sectors as "instruments" to further his fraudulent schemes, he said.