[On August 1, 2018, we lost AHM Moazzem Hossain, the doyen of financial journalism in Bangladesh and the founding editor of The Financial Express (FE). On this occasion, FE reintroduces the following piece that late Moazzem Hossain wrote in a special supplement in 2017.]
The publication of the special anniversary issue today is a happy occasion for us, in The Financial Express (FE). It is a commemorative event, not a drum-beating one. That this daily, with its prime focus on economic, financial and development-related news, has completed 24th year of its publication is certainly an auspicious moment for us in the FE. It has now stepped into its 25th year, completion of which will mark one quarter of a century of the FE's publication. In all modesty, it is no mean achievement. And credit for this goes to all -- our readers, patrons and well-wishers as much as to all those working with the FE.
The owning company of this paper -- International Publications Limited (IPL) -- deserves thanks for its unstinted support for facilitating the FE's steady forward march. The company does unfailingly uphold its principle stance on non-interference in pursuit of professionalism on the part of all the working journalists, operational freedom within the bounds of propriety and fairness to all others serving this paper, while ensuring the FE's editorial independence.
On its part, the FE has been endeavouring its best all throughout to follow the standards, norms and values within boundaries of what constitutes fair, responsible and objective journalism as far as possible. It does not 'create' news but follows and presents the same, objectively without any 'bias', 'tilt' or 'angling' and also without serving any particular agenda whatsoever. The FE shuns 'sensationalism', 'mud-slinging,' 'vilification' or 'character-assassination' as its core editorial policy.
All these are mentioned here because the media on a global scale is now facing its most testing times; attributes like 'fake news', 'alternative truth' and the like, are, rightly or wrongly, coming to the fore to taint the traditional media. This is taking place in an age when social media with all hybrid and myriad postings on their websites, have come on stage.
The FE still believes that the traditional media will continue to enjoy its relevance to their clients through relentless pursuit of core journalistic ethics and norms by upholding objectivity and authenticity, while covering news. But the developments in the new digital world that are particularly related to online news portals, social media etc., can, in no way, be ignored here. While the new media will need proper mentoring as the latest indications do unmistakably suggest, the print media will also have to embrace the new technology at a fast pace. A combination of both will make it a win-win situation.
It is, of course, a daunting task to develop a proper 'business model' for this purpose; many uncertainties continue to persist about making projections, not conjectures, for such a model to ensure sustainability, considering the level of investments that are needed for the new digital media as an adjunct or complementary to the print media. For the latter's effective functioning, credibility, trust and confidence of all the concerned, are also critical aspects here. This is more so in countries like Bangladesh where 'variables' of the situation are not yet known, for certain.
On its part, the FE appreciates amply well the importance of embracing the digital media platform. It has recently launched a project for revamping its online, in tandem with efforts for its outreach through social media. Our endeavours to make this project, now at its infancy, will continue, within our means. Scaling-up of FE's scorecard on this count in the yet vastly-untapped area for us, is certainly no easy job. We, in the FE, acknowledge this, in all frankness. But we believe the task in this area is time-befitting and thus worth-taking one, now that the FE has entered into the 25th year of its publication.
The past 24 years have not been all that easy for us, either. Odds and adversities during this period of time were multi-pronged -- ranging from skill shortage (which is, of course, a general problem not only in the country's media industry but also in most other sectors of its economy) to infrastructural support facilities. All the more, the FE, because of its kind of publication, encountered the challenge of attracting readership. This challenge has been because of the fact that the readership here, having knack for the type of news that get prominence and those too, in English language, in the country's "oversaturated" print media market, is not that large. There were many people who were 'sceptical' over the FE's sustainability, at the time of its launching.
We have braved through the challenge. Doomsday sayers have been proved wrong. The FE's consistent pursuit of financial journalism under the country-specific circumstances, has yielded quite encouraging results. Today, it has come of age. It stands on a distinctive place. Its readership base has expanded slowly but steadily. It is a profit-earning institution, contributing not a negligible amount, particularly considering its equity base, to the public exchequer in the form of taxes. It has also been giving dividends to the shareholders of its owning company on a regular basis. This has been the case over the past several years in an uninterrupted sequence. Its asset base has now expanded reasonably well, at least 20 times of its paid-up capital at current market prices. Above all, it has won trust and confidence of its readers and well-wishers, as a responsible and credible national daily.
The FE pursues its editorial policy upholding the cause of a liberal market-oriented economy, in sync with inclusive development. It remains firmly opposed to crony capitalism or kleptocracy. It is strongly committed to the ideals of a democratic polity, based on effective functioning of institutions. It pursues no partisan agenda.
This paper believes that free flow of information, well-grounded on facts, is critically important for raising the level of economic or financial literacy. This, in turn, can help strengthen enlightened decision-making by all concerned on the basis of 'objective' information. Knowledge, as we all know, is power. And information here is a major input for improving and upgrading, on a continuous basis, the cognitive aspects that are very much relevant to acquiring proper knowledge. This paper believes informed decision-making requires all relevant information. A competitive market-oriented economy needs such information for its efficient functioning. Information becomes irrelevant only to a situation where connection rather than anything else, rules the roost in business for whatsoever reasons. This leaves little or no scope for the entrepreneurship to grow and develop on the basis of efficiency and merit. This is exactly why the FE in its editorial policy is firmly opposed to crony capitalism.
Over the years, the FE has expanded its news coverage to other areas -- political, sports and all other varieties, to cater to the needs of the readers. This has been done, without forsaking its core thrust on economic, financial and business-related news. The FE's regular views/analyses/review pages carry write-ups by local and overseas contributors. This provides a platform for articulation and expression of their opinion on different issues of topical interests from various points of view. We believe that those pieces of opinion can expand the mental horizon of the readers from different perspective --national, regional and global ones.
This is all about how the FE has been trying to perform its professional role. But there is no room for complacency for us. This paper has still a long way to go in order to raise its quality and upgrade its standard. This is a never-ending exercise. And we, in the FE, are quite aware of this, knowing well where our strengths and weaknesses lie. We have to do our utmost to overcome our weaknesses while consolidating -- and not taking any comfort in -- our strengths.
Today's 48-page special issue, making the completion of 24th year of the FE's publication, is the first of a three-part anniversary supplement. We have done this in the past years, too. This year's supplement, like those of the yester ones, carries a broad range of analyses, comments, views and write-ups by our esteemed contributors, on various national, regional and international economic, political and other contemporary issues of consequence. We hope our readers, well-wishers and patrons will find it useful.
[This piece was originally published in FE on November 15, 2017]