Child journalist takes the reins of Bangladesh’s leading newspaper
Rupkatha Rahman in conversation with Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman
Rupkatha Rahman has been working as a child journalist since she was in fifth grade. Now a twelfth grader of Holy Cross College in Dhaka, she was given the responsibility of being the editor of Bangla newspaper Prothom Alo on the occasion of World Children’s Day. A ‘kid’s takeover’ is when a child takes over the responsibility of a media outlet, government office, business house, educational institution or any other important organization for a day. On World Children’s Day, UNICEF organizes kid’s takeovers in countries around the world. Through takeovers, children on this day are given the opportunity to express their opinions, implement their ideas and draw attention to issues that matter to them.
Taking over as the editor of Prothom Alo, Rupkatha Rahman spent the day learning how a newspaper functions and voicing her concerns about children’s rights and welfare. Her conversation with Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman covered a range of issues including the role and challenges of the mass media in ensuring children’s rights.
On the day, Matiur Rahman formally handed over his position as editor to Rupkatha with a wreath. As she entered the editor’s room in the Prothom Alo office at Karwan Bazar in Dhaka, Rupkatha Rahman was met with warm welcome. Matiur Rahman left his chair for the day’s editor after giving Rupkatha an identity card. He said, “I am old now, and I welcome someone younger to sit in my chair. I’m glad that you’ve taken charge. Now, tell me, how are you feeling as the editor of Prothom Alo?”
Before meeting the editor in his office, Rupkatha was given a walking tour of the newspaper office. She met people in senior journalists, reporters, the editorial team and graphics section, asking questions about their work and giving her suggestions.
In reply to Matiur Rahman’s question, Rupkatha said, “I’ve been working as a child journalist for a few years. But, today, I really got the chance to closely observe how a print media outlet operates for the first time. I’m very excited to take over the charge of Prothom Alo editor for the day.”
She took the opportunity to share her concerns as well: “Our country has so many media outlets now. We see reports in newsfeeds through the day, many of whose integrity is questionable. Sometimes fake news or superstition is spread through them, which can affect children.”
“The government of course has a responsibility here. But journalists also have a big responsibility. What are your thoughts on this, what can you do to make people more aware?”, Rupkatha asked.
In reply, Matiur Rahman first explained the values that guide Prothom Alo, and the newspaper’s policies on reporting on women and children. Every person working in Prothom Alo must be familiar with these and try wholeheartedly to implement them, he added. “Prothom Alo’s values include a commitment to good journalism, being pro-people, fostering creativity and solidarity, and being an agent of change. Every day, we discuss how we can bring change. We understand the issues affecting children and women and consciously try to represent their concerns in all pages of our newspaper. We hope that with time such positive changes will come to all media outlets in the country.”
In turn, Matiur Rahman asked Rupkatha about her expectations from journalists towards ensuring children’s rights in Bangladesh.
To this, Rupkatha proposed her own idea. “In our country, we see that often research is conducted with very small sample sizes, which do not represent the concerns from people living in different situations. For example, if only children from Dhaka are questioned about the advantages and disadvantages of online education through an online survey, we might only understand the views of those who are relatively privileged and have access to facilities, while children from other areas of the country might not even be able to participate in that survey at all. So, my proposal for Prothom Alo to develop a countrywide database for children. Prothom Alo has presence in every corner of the country and can easily collect information from these areas. A database like this will not only help us understand the situation for children all over the country, but also indicate over time if the we are making progress on issues such as mental health, education, health and family support that affect them.”
Rupkatha elaborated further: “For example, children from the 64 districts can be asked to rate their mental health on the scale of 1-10, or whether they are getting necessary mental health support, or whether their families are understanding of their concerns. With this information, we will definitely get a broader understanding of the situation. By going back and asking the questions at regular intervals, we can see if the situation is improving or not as well.”
Hearing this idea from the editor for the day, Matiur Rahman replied, “This is certainly a wonderful suggestion. It’ll be very useful if we can implement it. We are trying to bring improve constantly. We hope that organizations like UNICEF will continue to remind us about the importance of these issues.”
At the end of the day, Rupkatha enthusiastically spoke about her experience of being the editor of Prothom Alo for a day.
“After meeting all the people, I realized how much work goes into bringing the news to our fingertips! By playing the role of editor-in-chief for a day and learning from the actual editor, I am even more inspired to become a journalist, because this work is so rewarding and exciting. I hope this path will become more and more acceptable for young people to pursue – one that children feel the same excitement for as becoming a doctor or an engineer.
“I want all children to have the opportunity to think about all the different kinds of careers out there. For this World Children’s Day, my wish is that all the children are able to follow their dream job and get a chance to learn about it and experience it, just like I did.”
Translated by UNICEF