A vernacular daily Prothom Alo today (13th May, 2012) published an opinion piece on US-BD relations by Dr Gowher Rizvi, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s International Affairs Adviser, which appeared to me as an ideal piece showing lack of government understanding of how media work, how media set agenda and what influence media in setting their agenda. Moreover, the writer himself admitted the fact that Bangladesh government’s ‘inability to communicate’ Bangladeshi media ‘sadly missed the real significance’ of the recent visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Dhaka. According to Dr Rizvi, the outcome of the visit in the media remained focused mostly on what he said ‘peripheral issues’ and the ‘advice’ given by the Secretary was the main food for their thought. What he believes and the point which makes many people happy is that the decision to sign an agreement for a high level Partnership Dialogue has helped to elevate US-Bangladesh relations to a new height as the same status is also enjoyed by India and China. And I doubt how far the top brass in the government could successfully make the media stakeholders aware of the meaning of such heightened status. The opinion also approves my doubt. And the writer at the end has fallen in the trouble that he identified in his piece. “Diminishing the substance by magnifying the peripherals is not the hallmark of objective journalism.” Did he mean, the media had done it deliberately? I mean by the words ‘diminishing the substance’? Or the government failed to adjust where the media should magnify? Was there any pre-visit briefing where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefed the media of the agenda? Even if they did, the media will always take issues on top of their list and their agenda setting is influenced by a variety of reasons that the statesmen should be well aware of. Nevertheless, there has been a step forward in the understanding and at least they now can identify what is their inability in communicating millions of people through the pages and screens of media. Let’s not discuss how they will deal with global communication when Dr Rizvi himself is learned to have opined that the Foreign Ministry “lacked creativity and vision.”
Photo: Dr Gowher Rizvi, Harvard JFK School website.