Five daily newspapers in Chattogram have been closed since July 30 due to the protest of the employees demanding full Eid bonus. The newspapers are Daily Azadi, Daily Purbokone, Suprobhat Bangladesh, Daily Purbodesh and Daily Bir Chattagram Mancha.
As no decision has yet been taken to restart the publication, journalists, officials and employees of the dailies are spending their days in uncertainty.
According to the journalists working in the newspapers, the owners of the dailies did not pay full bonus for Eid-ul-Fitr on the pretext of losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The same happened on Eid-ul-Azha except for the Daily Azadi.
So the journalists' rights organisation, the Chattogram Union of Journalists (CUJ), held a protest on July 26 in front of the Chattogram Press Club and on July 29 in front of the house of Daily Azadi owner and editor MA Malek.
Angered by this, the Chattogram Newspapers Alliance, an organisation of editors of local newspapers, stopped the publication of the dailies.
A journalist of the Daily Purbakon said, "50 percent bonus was deducted for Eid-ul-Fitr. Due to the protest, no Eid-ul-Azha bonus was given. The publication of the newspaper is also closed. I thought the situation would be normal after Eid, but I do not see any initiative to publish the daily."
M Shamsul Islam, general secretary of CUJ, said, "Half of the bonus has been given to the journalists of these newspapers on Eid-ul-Fitr. A letter has been sent to the Chattogram Newspapers Alliance, an organisation of editors, to discuss the matter. But they did not sit in the discussion."
"We know that half the bonus is being given on Eid-ul-Azha too. Then a letter was sent to Chattogram Newspapers Alliance again but no solution was found. Later, the convener of the organisation, MA Malek, the owner and editor of the Daily Azadi, was contacted by phone on behalf of CUJ. He said he would discuss the matter later," said Shamsul Islam.
"But then he (MA Malek) did not say anything. That is why the protest was held on July 26 in front of the Chattogram Press Club and on July 29 in front of the house of Azadi owner and editor MA Malek," he added.
MA Malek told The Business Standard, "If those who work under you come to your house and abuse you, will you keep the organisation going? There is a discussion table if I am to blame. But there is no point in coming in front of the house and insulting me and my family like this."
When asked if there was any decision on starting the publication of the newspaper, he said, "No decision has been taken to publish the newspaper. Besides, I have no intention of launching it."
Meanwhile, the journalist leaders sat in a meeting on Wednesday to discuss their further steps.
Iftekhar Faisal, publicity and publication secretary of CUJ, said, "The meeting is going on. The next programme will be announced as per the decision of the meeting."