The great leader defended all journalists, regardless of whether they were critical of him or not
Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman maintained close ties with newspapers and journalists of his time.
Noted journalist ABM Musa in “Amar Bela Je Jai” wrote: “The sweetest aspect of Mujib Bhai's character was his sincere love for every person who became familiar with him. That sincerity and personal closeness was felt by enemies and allies alike. However, journalists occupied a prominent place in his heart.”
One incident in particular highlights Bangabandhu’s love for journalists. After the Liberation War, when Bangabandhu was travelling to Bangladesh from Pakistan via the UK and India, journalist Ataus Samad boarded the same flight in Delhi.
“After arriving in Dhaka, Samad said Bangabandhu on the aircraft asked him first not about his family, but about every journalist who was familiar with him. Bangabandhu asked about them all by name. He repeatedly asked if the journalists were alive, even if they had criticized him,” ABM Musa wrote.
On January 12, just two days after his homecoming, Bangabandhu asked for Badruddin Ahmad, then the editor of the Pakistan-owned newspaper Morning News.
“That newspaper always used to fabricate news about Bangabandhu. During the Agartala conspiracy case, the newspaper wrote about the death sentence of Bangabandhu. The newspaper’s office was burnt down during the Language Movement and Mass Uprising of 1969. Bangabandhu had Badruddin Ahmad located and personally sent him to Pakistan for his safety,” according to Musa.
When Musa met Ahmad in Lahore in 1975, the latter openly wept over the death of the great man who had saved his life.
In 1971, another journalist had lost his job for making critical statements about Bangabandhu. The Father of the Nation ensured that the journalist was returned to his post.
There were also times when Bangabandhu defended journalists who were critical of his ministers with his wit and humour.
One evening at Ganabhaban, then minister of state for information Taheruddin Thakur rushed to Bangabandhu and launched into a tirade about how Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, then editor of Dainik Janapad, had called him a Sarail Hound because he had shortened government advertisements.
In response, Bangabandhu said: “Gaffar, you shouldn’t call him a Sarail Hound. There are many types of dogs. Sarail hounds are long, slim, and ferocious, like Alsatians. On the other hand, bulldogs are fat and have round faces that get reddish when they are angry.”
Musa, Gaffar and other journalists struggled to contain their laughter as Thakur, who was a little overweight, stormed off.
Bangabandhu then told the journalists: “You shouldn’t really criticize people’s figures, though.”
The Father of the Nation is sometimes criticized for closing down all but four newspapers ahead of the mooted formation of the Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Baksal). However, even then, Bangabandhu ensured that journalists who had lost their jobs received salaries until they found new work, according to the book “Bangabandhu and his family” by Baby Maudud.