The newspaper industry in Bangladesh is facing serious troubles in both reaching the readers and continuing publishing the print editions in the prevailing coronavirus situation.
Bangla tabloid daily Manab Zamin suspended its print edition from Friday while some regional dailies from outside Dhaka also suspended their print editions.
Almost all newspapers reduced pages in their print editions and increased focus on the internet edition with the commitment to providing updated information.
Readers from different areas in the capital said that they were not getting newspapers for some days starting from March 24 as the government announced 10-day holiday from March 26 and shut all public transports to check the spread of coronavirus.
Newspaper hawker leaders said that a good number of hawkers left Dhaka earlier to avoid the situation that arose out of the national shutdown.
They said that several offices and banks unsubscribed for some days as there were rumours that newspaper would serve as a carrier of the virus.
Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, citing research findings that newspapers do not spread coronavirus, requested people to keep reading newspapers.
Referring to claims made on social media that the virus could spread through newspapers, the association, in a statement issued on Wednesday, said that such idea had no basis.
Dhaka Sangbadpatra Hawkers Bohumukhi Samabay Samity Limited general secretary M Abdul Manan, however, said that the sale of newspapers saw a significant fall after a large number of people left Dhaka, the main hub of newspaper readers.
On March 25, editors of Sylhet-based newspapers decided to stop the publication of newspapers.
In a statement signed by Sylhet Mirror editor Ahmed Noor cited the looming ‘transportation difficulty’ for the suspension for an indefinite period. At least 13 newspapers are published from Sylhet.
Manab Zamin editor-in-chief Matiur Rahman Chowdhury told New Age on Wednesday that his decision to suspend the print edition of the newspaper came after coronavirus hit newspaper distribution badly disrupted.
Advertisement dropped sharply as well, he added.
He said that he also wanted not to push his staff members into risk since they did not have health insurance.
He said that Manab Zamin was not the first newspaper to cancel its print edition but many newspapers in countries such as Australia, Canada and India suspended their print editions because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He hoped that things would get back to normal after the crisis is over.
On March 28, hawkers of Chandpur district stopped selling all kinds of national and local newspapers in the district for the 10-day public holiday.
On March 27, Jashore Newspaper Owners Association in a meeting decided not to publish any newspaper till March 31 due to coronavirus scare, Mobinul Islam Mobin, general secretary of the association told New Age.
The president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Molla Jalal, told New Age that the government should announce special incentive for journalists involved in the newspaper industry.
He also urged the newspaper owners to ensure necessary safety measures for journalists who are working during COVID-19 emergency.
Information ministry secretary Kamrun Nahar told New Age that the ministry in a video conference suggested all the divisional commissioners to take necessary measures to ensure distribution of newspapers.
She said an initiative was necessary to provide incentive to the newspaper industry to meet the losses for coronavirus impact and hoped that the ministry would take timely steps to this end.
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