Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) media cell affiliated magazine’s official X (formerly Twitter) handle, tweets from which are retweeted by BNP supporters and activists, is running a “smear campaign” claiming the party boycotting Somoy TV talk shows has resulted in a decline in its viewership, says the TV authorities.
Such claims are meant to “intimidate and prevent” the media from carrying out reportage ahead of the national election, analysts and senior journalists say.
With a graph purportedly showing a steep decline in the YouTube viewership of two TV channels — Somoy and Ekattor — in August, the tweet shared by BNP Media Cell’s magazine “The Road to Democracy” contains a “veiled threat” to mainstream media outlets, they say.
“We call upon Bangladeshi media to take a strong, pro-democratic stance. In the end, a dictatorship takes down everyone. Your complicity will not save you,” reads the tweet.
The tweet came after BNP leadership slapped an embargo on party leaders and activists from appearing in talk shows on the two leading television channels.
For context, Somoy TV produced and aired a series of documentaries on the convictions of the Zia family, including BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and her son Tarique Rahman.
“The party has decided to temporarily boycott the talk shows of Ekattor TV and Somoy TV due to their biased approach. The decision has been made after consultations with senior BNP leaders who recently participated in these talk shows,” Shahid Uddin Chowdhury Annie, BNP’s publicity secretary and member secretary of BNP Media Cell, had said.
The graph shared with the post showed Somoy and Ekattor lost significant viewership on YouTube right after BNP’s decision to boycott their talk shows. The graph claims the YouTube viewership for Somoy TV did not cross the 40,000 mark since the boycott till August 13.
But Somoy TV authorities say this claim is untrue.
Between July 28 and August 22, the impression gained by Somoy TV marked a 15 percent spike despite BNP’s boycott, as the total number soared to 2.6 billion, said Salauddin Salim, Head of Broadcast & IT at Somoy TV.
Moreover, the total number of viewership on a daily basis till the said period remained almost the same with no sign of decline since the boycott, suggesting that the claim of “dip” in viewership is not true, he added.
On the other hand, the total number of subscribers on Somoy’s YouTube channel reached 20.4 million from 20.2 million in the said time frame.
Months earlier, BNP’s Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir lashed out at Somoy TV.
The Somoy TV report that had seemingly drawn the ire of the BNP leader highlights that both Tarique Rahman and Khaleda Zia were sentenced by courts.
“That report on our leaders – Tarique Rahman and Begum Zia – is like back-stabbing our democratic movement against the government. As we continue our movement to restore democracy, they should abstain from airing such reports,” Fakhrul said about Somoy TV at a press conference.
Media analysts say BNP’s call for “press freedom” rings hollow as such “intimidation tactics” clearly expose a “double standard”.