UNMASKING THE UNSEEN

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With more than 18 years of experience, Chayan Rahman is one of the most well-reputed personalities in investigative journalism in Bangladesh. In a conversation with ICE Business Times, Rahman shares the story of his beginnings, and discusses the way forward for investigative journalism.


How did your career in investigative journalism begin?
I was a student of the Department of Mass Communication at Rajshahi University. My journey into journalism began as a university representative. I efficiently transitioned to become the Bureau Reporter for the national daily, Jugantor, in 2004. My reports focused on various crimes and corruption in Rajshahi. Particularly noteworthy were the series of reports exposing irregularities and corruption within Rajshahi prison during that time. In recognition of my work, I was offered a position at the television channel NTV, starting on 1 January 2006. Just six months after joining NTV, I was asked to investigate for an episode of Crime Watch titled ‘Bicharer bani nivrite kade’. This bolstered my interest in investigative reporting, and since then, I have dedicated 18 consecutive years to television journalism.

What are some of your notable investigative reports?
During my 12 years at NTV, I conducted approximately 150 investigative reports. With a strong desire to uncover the truth, I did the international award-winning series, Crying Rivers, Crying Sea, exposing river occupiers nationwide. Additionally, my five-part series titled Extremist Janapad, brought to light the rise of extremists in the South West, their patron godfathers, pirates in the Sundarbans, open sale of wildlife, counterfeit drugs, cross-border smuggling, and arms trade in border areas, has also won two international and one national award. I also presented over 90 episodes of Nine Investigation, which was aired on Channel Nine. An episode exposing the illicit trade of tiger parts is still popular among viewers today.

Chayan Rahman
Investigative Journalist

 

Are the challenges of investigative journalism in print and electronic media different to television?
Investigative journalism is a challenging practice, no matter the medium. Besides consciousness, knowledge, and courage, an investigative reporter requires infinite patience. In the case of investigative journalism in print media, it is important to present complete evidence, accurate statistics, and the statements of all concerned parties. The same applies to investigative journalism on television, but, it is a bit more challenging. On television, along with the information needed for reporting, getting the video at the right time is also important. The footage should present the investigations in such a way that a viewer is left with no questions unanswered. Therefore investigative journalists have to be more cautious, and more attentive in terms of research, review, recording and editing. The use of hidden cameras is common in investigative journalism on television. My personal opinion is that hidden camera captures do not provide the same level of satisfaction as direct, hands-on investigation where the camera is part of the action.

How has the practice of investigative journalism evolved over the years?
In the last four decades in Bangladesh, the interest of readers and viewers towards numerous investigative news stories has been noticeable. Countless investigative reports, for instance, the 1989 trial of Munir and Khuku regarding the murder of Sharmin Rima, and the 2004 trial of Ershad Sikder, leading to his death sentence, following which, revelations of his crime empire started to emerge one after the other, have stirred the inquisitive minds of all types of audiences. Several investigative reports have also been published on the death of the popular star of Bangladeshi cinema, Salman Shah, diving in-depth to determine whether it was a case of suicide or murder. The 2011 murder mystery of journalist couple Sagar-Runi is yet to be solved although several investigative news have been published and circulated about this. Viewers have also developed an interest towards investigative reports on extremists, Sundarban pirates, border crimes, and human trafficking by sea. Also, news about land grabbing and people who have amassed wealth through illegal methods has given rise to discussions among the audience.

 


I would say to budding journalists and journalism students, keep your mind inquisitive. At the same time, develop yourself as a real investigative journalist with a mix of intelligence, knowledge, courage and patience.


 

Based on the knowledge you have gained from years of investigative journalism, what should be the way forward to reduce crime rates in Bangladesh?
While conducting my investigations, I have made some critical observations. Barriers to investigative reporting posed by the Digital Act need to be removed. In particular, when the corrupt are exposed with concrete evidence, they abuse this law to harass investigative journalists. If all the information about illegal business, harassment and fraud that are highlighted in the investigative news are taken into consideration at the right time, then I believe that such crime trends will be reduced a lot.

What advice do you have for aspiring investigative journalists?
Investigative journalism is the main attraction of journalism. The satisfaction of solving mysteries, uncovering clues, and reporting on them is a satisfaction found in no other journalism practice. I would say to budding journalists and journalism students, keep your mind inquisitive. At the same time, develop yourself as a real investigative journalist with a mix of intelligence, knowledge, courage and patience. We should remember that investigative journalism is one of the ancillary aspects of the popularity of newspaper and television news. Therefore, newspapers and television media should ensure all kinds of cooperation in the development of these journalists. I believe that the more investigative reporters that emerge from young journalists, the more future investigative reporters will play a role in rooting out corruption and crime in society.

 

Photograph by Najmul Haque Sagor

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UNMASKING THE UNSEEN

With more than 18 years of experience, Chayan Rahman is one of the most well-reputed personalities in investigative journalism in Bangladesh. In a conversation with

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