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Military-Media Relations in Bangladesh

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This study explored the following aspects of mass communication in relation to military rule in Bangladesh from 15 August 1975 to 6 December 1990. 1. The media climate during the regimes of General Ziaur Rahman and General Ershad; 2. The media’s role in reinforcing military rule; 3. The pressures on the media; 4. The media’s role in the resistance to the regime of General Ershad; and 5. Interactions between the military, the media and politics. This study looked into Altschull’s (1984) advancing press model, the concept of the agendasetting function of the media, the Press Independence and Critical Ability (PICA) method for evaluating press freedom, and some arguments of the Marxist analysis of the media. It also offers a new framework called ‘collaboration-opposition collaboration’ by developing Altschull’s ‘adversary, watchdog and agenda setter’ (A W A) role of the media to help explain the situation in Bangladesh. The study examined general views of eleven Bangladeshi editors and 78 journalists about some aspects of military-media relations.

It analysed the attitude of the Bangladesh army towards the media; what role the military intelligence played in the media sector; and how the local press covered the imposition of military rule. It investigated alleged conspiratorial role played by local and foreign journalists; and analysed the role of the journalists’ unions, the British press, the BBC and VOA’s Bengali Services during the period. This study found that the Bangladesh press has acquired immense political power since independence. During 1975 and 1982, a section of journalists and newspapers were largely responsible for creating a psychological framework in favour of military intervention into politics. On the other hand, some critical newspapers and magazines were subjected to various forms of pressures including arrests of journalists and closing down of publications. However, with the growing resistance of the people against the military rule, the newspapers began to focus on antiautocracy issues and such publications, in turn, helped the democratic movement in 1990. The study showed that the media, with the popular support and the their successful interaction with the political parties, forced the military regime to retreat from politics. END//

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