Bangladesh Betar: Glorious stride for tracking hard times like coronavirus outbreak

Samia Rubayat Hussain

In the information and knowledge age, Bangladesh Betar, the country’s oldest electronic mass media, responds with a sense of urgency to critical information needs as a knowledge-based information organisation; and delivers relevant, reliable, accurate, complete and timely information-based solutions to its listeners. 

Information literacy as a concept bears a diversity of meanings, from everyday usage to technical settings. Information cadre officials, as Information Professional (IP), are strategically accomplishing the mission statement of the Bangladesh Betar by serving the nation through the development, deployment, and management of information resources. 

They are working with positive attitude, skills and values to render their job effectively and contribute positively to the organisation. 

Their competencies range from being strong communicators, to demonstrating the added value of their contributions, to remaining flexible and positive in an ever-changing environment. They have their roots in the past and reach far into the future. They are committed to professional excellence and ethics, and to the values and principles of the profession.

In the current context, the world is facing potentially unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic – in all areas. The outbreak of coronavirus disease COVID-19 has created a global health crisis that has had a deep impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. 

Bangladesh Betar is working to keep people safe and informed during the coronavirus public health crisis by providing access to accurate information, supporting relief efforts and keeping people connected. The role is important as the vulnerable sections of the population need credible information at their doorsteps on how they can protect themselves from the pandemic.

It has produced different programmes for farmers, on physical distancing, ways avoid rumours and measures that need to be taken at home beyond hand washing and sanitising.

Bangladesh Betar is broadcasting programmes regularly on coronavirus contamination in different formats, such as news, public service announcement, radio spots, radio talks, magazines, drama, jingles, interviews and expert opinions. Officials cannot possibly go to every village, but through this medium, they can communicate to the maximum number of people. 

Bangladesh Betar through 14 regional offices and eight specialised units are working shoulder to shoulder with the government for last-mile delivery of information to create adequate COVID-19 awareness. 

It has its impact and its role during the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering effective health communication for the adoption of sustainable preventive measures and curtailing misinformation, public health communication to increase psychological resources and resilience in distinct age groups and socioeconomic conditions, and effective strategies for helping individuals in dealing with physical distancing.

The officials of the information cadre working at Bangladesh Betar and different government organisations, including the Press Wing of the Prime Minister’s Office, PR Wing of Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat and Ministries as public relations officers are doing their job with great risk of their own by working day and night relentlessly also during the lockdowns, trying to spread awareness. 

Many of them, including the deputy director general (programme) of Bangladesh Betar, have been infected with the novel coronavirus while doing their state responsibilities with utmost sincerity. 

Those who have recovered joined their work again to serve the country. It’s not easy to get information to the hard-to-reach at the best of times, and Betar is continuing to strive to make sure the needs of these communities are not forgotten. Information cadre professionals are working as front liners at this grave hour of time and in the adverse conditions.

Bangladesh Betar has witnessed a glorious journey. Its crucial role in the partition in 1947, in the Language Movement in 1952, in the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, in the mass upsurge of 1969, and in the Liberation War of 1971 was crucial and highly appreciated. The contribution of Bangladesh Betar is best depicted through the role it performed during the Liberation War. 

Ethnic and linguistic discrimination and economic neglect by the politically dominant West Pakistan led to the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. On Mar 7, 1971, the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a historic speech at the Racecourse Ground and urged the people to turn every house into a fort of resistance. 

Bangabandhu in his declaration of independence called upon the people to resist the occupation forces through a message in the first hour on Mar 26, 1971. On that day, Bangladesh Betar was raised as “Swadhin Bangla Biplobi Betar Kendra” with the voice of impedance. 

With that broadcast, the entire nation got back its confidence, courage of conviction and strong optimism. During the whole period of Liberation War, it successfully carried out its intellectual war like an organised second front of the War of Independence and aired its patriotic songs which greatly inspired the freedom fighters and freedom-seeking people. It was like a heartbeat for the people in a confined Bangladesh. It made the world understand our urge for freedom.

After the independence, Bangladesh Betar began its journey as the national radio. The authorities believe that they are successful in holding their target audience since they come up with unique programmes for people from every corner of the nation. It has also developed the archive by digitising audio cassettes from the worn-out spools. 

This will preserve the works of the great artistes of yesteryears and will also allow us to play their tracks for the new generation. Bangladesh Betar is serving its best even to the people from the remotest or coastal areas of the country.

Acting as a medium of creating opportunities for new talents, the radio emerged as the most popular and powerful tool and the prime source of news, education, cultural dissemination and entertainment. Various programmes on topics ranging from farm broadcast, children, health and family planning, self-employment, disaster management, weather forecast and rural development are still found to be very effective and helpful by the people of the marginal communities.

Bangladesh Betar, the national radio network, has been discharging the responsibility of disseminating information, education, and entertainment with utmost commitment, honesty and objectivity. It functions to support the nation-building efforts of the government by upholding social values and the country’s rich historical and cultural heritage. 

Betar has been playing a pivotal role in developing a knowledge-based information society taking advantage of its unique and distinctive capacity as the cheapest and most versatile medium to reach to the grassroots level.

Bangladesh is a disaster-prone country. Recently cyclone Amphan hit the coastal areas of Bangladesh but with comparatively fewer deaths and loss of property because of awareness and precautionary measures. This is attributable to successful disaster management activities carried out by the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

Bangladesh Betar has played a tremendous role in disseminating early warning messages along with other information which was helpful in capacity building with regards to withstand the fury of devastation. 

Besides these, Bangladesh Betar is a communication media which have great potential for influencing farmers to stimulate agricultural development. The audience of Betar is nationwide and as a public broadcasting system, it needs to cater to far-flung interests.

It’s like telling the old story once again – the workforce of Bangladesh Betar has dedicated themselves for the country and humanity. It’s working as a government information institution to keep the lamp alight in the midst of any thickening mist, to safeguard the smile of the sun shrouded behind the clouds. 

The professional radio officials with a strong sense of national identity always came forth to serve the nation at craving times as well as day-to-day life, and they will continue to render their service relentlessly in coming time.

Samia Rubayat Hussainis the Deputy Director at Bangladesh Parliament Secretariat.