Matiur Rahman (journalist)
Matiur Rahman (Bengali: মতিউর রহমান) is the editor of Daily Prothom Alo, the largest circulated Bengali language daily in Bangladesh. He is the recipient of the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.
Matiur Rahman was born 2 January 1946 in Calcutta to Mohammed Fazlur Rahman, a lawyer, and Lutfunessa Begum. He grew up in the era of decolonisation and nationalism that gave birth to East Pakistan and then Bangladesh. For his secondary education, he attended Nawabpur Government High School and then Dhaka Government College. For his higher education, he attended Dhaka University and earned his Master's degree in Statistics from University of Dhaka in 1967. While a student, he became a Marxist and was a student leader in East Pakistan Student Union. Later, he was secretly a member of Communist Party of Bangladesh while it was still outlawed.
Matiur Rahman entered journalism in 1970 when he became the editor of Ekota, a Socialist weekly. For five years during the 1970s, he also published the Bangladesh edition of the journal World Marxist Review. He left that position after 21 years and after the fall of the East Bloc. After he left Ekota, he worked as a journalist for Ajker Kagoj ("Today's News"), which was Bangladesh's first modern newspaper. In February 1992, Matiur Rahman partnered with others to found Bhorer Kagoj ("Morning News"), which he edited for the next six years. After Saber Hossain Chowdhury joined the cabinet of the Awami League government, Rahman felt pressured to shape the newspaper's stance in accordance with the ruling party and this led to his resignation. In 1998 he founded Prothom Alo, or "First Light", a daily newspaper. Rahman established Prothom Alo's credibility and increased circulation by exposing government missteps and corruption, as well as human rights violations. The newspaper's advocacy of solutions and Rahman's editorials attracted readers. Today it reaches a half million readers.
Rahman believes that newspapers should base editorial content on the people's interests and also should advocate on the people's behalf.
Campaign against acid throwing
Prothom Alo attracted international attention when it covered the issue of acid throwing in Bangladesh. In 2000, the newspaper covered a case of a female acid throwing victim who was 15 years old. Rahman used the resources of his newspaper to campaign against the practice. Prothom Alo pressured the government to strengthen laws against acid attacks and the sale of dangerous chemicals. In 2002, the Acid Crimes Prevention Act and Acid Control Act stiffened penalties for acid throwers and tightened licensing requirements for acid sales. In prominent daily appeals, Rahman called on readers to contribute to the Prothom Alo Aid Fund for acid victims. The newspaper solicited donations at rallies and press conferences working with the Acid Survivors Foundation and called upon celebrities and volunteers to carry the appeal throughout the country. As donations poured in the fund, Rahman acknowledged each small gift in the newspaper. By June 2005, some 8.2 million taka had been raised to benefit almost two hundred victims. The funds were used for burn treatments, plastic surgery, legal fees, and living expenses, as well as new homes for some and income-generating assets such as milking cows, sewing machines, cultivable lands, and shops for others. Matiur Rahman was presented with the 2005 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and Creative Communication Arts. In the award citation, the board of trustees recognised "his wielding the power of the press to crusade against acid throwing and to stir Bangladeshis to help its many victims."
On 17 September 2007, a cartoon titled Naam (Name) was published in the 431st edition of Alpin. The cartoon, by 20-year-old cartoonist Arifur Rahman, featured a conversation between an elderly man and a boy and the controversy is regarding the text rather than the pictures as had been the case in previous such incidents. When the boy was asked what his name was, he omitted the prefix Muhammad, used by some Muslims to show respect to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The elder informed him that he should use the prefix in front of all names. In the final strip, the man asked the boy what was in his lap to which he replied "Muhammad cat".
The country's mainly Muslim population regarded the publication of the cartoon in their holy month of Ramadhan as a deliberate attempt to ridicule Muhammad, who is highly revered by Muslims, and ignite unrest in the country. Demonstrations were held the following day in major cities, even though such protests were made unlawful by the interim caretaker government earlier in 2007. Formal representations were made by Muslim leaders to the government during meetings held on 18 September with calls for revoking the license of the newspaper, Prothom Alo. The government banned the sale of the 431st issue and instructed the authorities to seize all printed copies while urging the public to exercise self-restraint, and arrested Arifur Rahman.
In a statement released by Prothom Alo, the editor of Alpin, Matiur Rahman, apologised, expressing regret for publishing the cartoon. He stated that the "unedited, unapproved and unacceptable" cartoon is being withdrawn and would be "taking actions against the persons responsible". However, religious clerics of the country continued their outcry and demanded the arrest of Matiur Rahman and Prothom Alo's publisher, Mahfuz Anam.
- "Matiur Rahman" (PDF). Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
- "Citation for Matiur Rahman".
- "Bangladesh through Matiur Rahman of Prothom Alo's eyes". Adgully.com. 22 April 2013.
- "Current Circulation". Prothom Alo. 1 September 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Goloy, Angelina G.; Balgos, Cecile C. A. (2006). Kalaw-Tirol, Lorna, ed. Great men and women of Asia: Ramon Magsaysay Awardees from South Asia, 1987–2005, Volume 3. Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (Anvil Publishing, Inc). p. 242. ISBN 971-27-1836-0.
- "Prothom Alo's editor Motiur Rahman wounded". Daily Ittefaq. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- "Jamaat-Shibir men clash with cops". The Nation. 13 February 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
- Web page for Daily Prothom-Alo
- "When Media Takes a Stand for Social Change," Magsaysay Award Speech