“Ideology, Religion, National Identity: Media’s Role in Internal Conflicts”

Bangladesh is a relatively small country with an area of one hundred and forty four thousand square kilometers, literally dwarfed by her most immediate neighbors, Myanmar and India. However with an official population of over hundred and sixty million, she is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Due to lack of decentralization of utilities and resources across the country, an alarming percentage of the total population is compelled to earn their livelihood from the capital city, Dhaka. Dhaka is also the city where I am from. Both my office and residence are situated around the center of the city.

Bangladesh is mostly a homogenous country, both in terms of geography, heritage and ethnicity. Except a few hills around the eastern border, most parts of Bangladesh are less than 12 meters above the sea level. The overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis are ethnic Bengali, constituting 98% of the population. The remainders are mostly Biharis and indigenous tribal groups. There is also a small but growing population of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar around Cox’s Bazaar, which Bangladesh seeks to repatriate to Myanmar. The indigenous tribal peoples are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in the southeast. There are 45 tribal groups located in this region, the largest being the Chakma. Outside the Hill Tracts, the largest tribal groups are the Santhals and, while smaller groups include the Kaibartta, Meitei, Mundas, Oraons, and Zomi. This homogeneity has largely saved Bangladesh from calamitous internal conflicts arising from differences in religious, political and cultural identities and ideologies, common in other countries in the region.

However, as the socioeconomic condition of the country is still improving, the disparity between people from different economic classes, some time, causes small conflicts nevertheless. I am here to answer the question, that, ‘should media play a role in resolving internal conflict and if so, how?’. As a representative of the media, I believe that should we uphold its principles and ethics while notifying the masses about any conflict, we are already playing the expected role. Providing unbiased insights into a conflict is, a responsibility, almost unanimously vested upon the media. Now if we adhere to that particular role alone, we are doing our bit as professionals. But the most critical component of the whole question is I believe the word, ‘resolving’. Because when the impartial truth becomes transparent to the public, which way the issue might go is the subject matter of a different branch of knowledge. Let me present an analogy to explain, to be honest, the severest problem of my country after her population is corruption. When there is a conflict with corruption, our role, if we observe the principles, might as well nourish the growth of the conflict. For the media must never forget that their role in a conflict is as same as that in an achievement and it should never be a role against the conflict. In the context of corruption, I believe media should do the yeoman’s service in keeping the political leadership and the bureaucracy of the country under scrutiny and highlighting waywardness in governance wherever and whenever due.

Last but not the least; media should never act in any way to influence people’s judgment. Their role should be to inform, not to interpret or interfere in any conflict.

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