If you compare the time you began your career in journalism and the current time, do you think it was more challenging back then?
I had studied in Dhaka University’s Mass Communication and Journalism Department to become a journalist. It was in my nature to become one, thanks to my family. When I was young, my father used to check up on whether I had read the paper or not. After reading became a habit then my interest in the field began to grow.
A friend of mine who worked at Daily Banglar Bani suggested that I join there. We worked during a volatile period of the country, Ershad’s regime, a time when the campus atmosphere was also very dynamic, not to mention Dhaka University Central Student’s Union (DUCSU)’s activities. Today’s students are deprived of that festive atmosphere, also leading them to miss out on its polls, which could’ve been a platform to raise their political awareness, organisational responsibilities, etc.
It would not be fair to be specific as to which time is more challenging. Challenges and circumstances were different. Back then we were exposed to news through papers and agencies such as UNB. Today there are online news portals, which are easily accessible and are often used by trainees to file assignments without even going to the spot. This is harmful for one’s professional development.
Today with more and more media outlets and mediums, there is a race among the media houses on who will publish the news first, this often leads to errors.
At work, do women have to face more challenges than men, in offices or in the field?
It is true that the environment for women to work in journalism is still not reasonably favourable. But I’ll ask that in which field that is not the case. Women still have to face obstacles at almost every step when working. Society may have advanced, but not to the degree of creating an equal –opportune environment. We still reside in a patriarchal society, where the chauvinistic mindset still persists. When a woman comes for work, a hesitation still works, in every occupation, of whether they will be able to bring the desired results. A woman has to work harder to prove to everyone that she can work and deliver. They have to prove twice, first to silence her critics, and then with her competition on a level-playing field.
Electronic media was the first platform where the level-playing field was set. That was when young owners and CEOs first considered giving women equal opportunities and they delivered. Most men still feel it is futile for women to work.
In our society, a woman has to finish her household duties and then set out for work, something that is not evident in the West.
What is the vision of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina regarding women journalists?
It is our good fortune that Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is our patron. She has played an integral role in ensuring women’s development in all sectors, always on their side. She is our symbol of courage, which we keep telling everyone. We always try to emulate her ways of leading a life.
It is true, that the number of women members at Jatiya Press Club is negligible, but most of the members, who are men, had voted for me to become the Press Club’s first ever female General Secretary.
After getting elected, how was it like receiving the US Congressional Recognition Crest?
I could not comprehend the magnitude of the citation at first. After returning to Bangladesh, my fellow committee members at the Press Club told me that it was a huge honour. When they decided to celebrate the award, everyone was present, including Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, Information Adviser to the PM Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, the Editor of Daily Ittefaq (where I work) Tasmima Hossain, all my friends and well-wishers.
Apart from being a journalist, you have multiple identities – a poet, an essayist and others. Which one appeals to you most?
I always wanted to be a journalist, that is what attracts me still now. I had never thought of becoming a leader of journalists, but that happened due to circumstances.
Transcribed by Wafiur Rahman.