A few hours ago, I posted an opinion piece on CNN iReport detailing the question paper leak matter which would generally fall under the category of current affairs. Quickly after the link hit the social media, all hells began to break loose. Suddenly I’m the traitor damaging the country’s image more than anyone else. I’m under fire (not criticism, but hatred) for penning about this on CNN’s citizen journalism platform. In this post, I’d like to explain myself and write about the things that I’ve learned from this experience.
I am a technology journalist but I write about current affairs from time to time especially when I have a voice to share about something. The question paper leak is a disaster for the country and I’ve observed with rather amazement that despite newspaper reports confirming the leaked question papers were largely matching the original ones, the authority seems to be at ease about it. Whenever something concerns me, I tend to write about it. It’s not like I can change the world by writing, but if I can provoke constructive thoughts among the readers, why not do it?
Besides my little experience writing for various web and print magazine as tech journalist, I’m a student. My goal in life is to be a journalist. I am yet to get admitted into a undergraduate program to study journalism, so pardon me if I don’t know all the journalism ethics there is to know. But to explain the situation, here’s why I wrote this on CNN iReport.
Fact: CNN iReport is a Citizen Journalism site. In simpler words, you can sign up right away and post your thoughts. It’s a blog. So anything published there does not mean it’s on CNN. Majority of us tend to make the same mistake thinking that something on iReport means it’s on CNN. It’s not.
Because I want to be a journalist, occasionally I try to spend more time than usual on writing pieces. For my blog, like this one, I would just write down whatever I have in mind, add an accompanying image and tags, and hit the publish button before sharing it with my friends on Facebook and Twitter. But when I do more than that, like studying sources, spending more time editing and perfecting each and every paragraph, I tend to publish it wherever possible. Yes, those write-ups will help me shape my writing and presenting my skill to the editors. I would admit that because it’s no secret. But don’t misunderstand that for ‘fame’. A designer does not design and publish for fame, he does it for his portfolio. It’s almost always the same for other careers as well.
Why it didn’t strike me that publishing that story would be a bad idea
Because I didn’t know writing about what’s happening is a crime. I didn’t know writing about something that is a widespread disaster for my country somehow makes me a traitor. I would like to ask any journalist reading this piece, if I were working for CNN — or any other international agency for that matter — and my editor asked me to write a story on this topic, what should I have done? Decline him because I’m a Bangladeshi and I wouldn’t write anything — no matter how true — that puts a bad image on my country? I seriously want to know what journalism ethics say about this.
From what I understand, journalism ethics means you have to remain true about what you write and your point of view should be neutral. I’m not sure if that’s true, correct me if I’m wrong. But with that article, I’ve written in a tone supporting Bangladesh. I urged the authority to take action against this — something an average CNN (or any other news media, unless an editorial) would not never do. I guess I should have just stayed low and write nothing about it. That would hide the reality from spreading and thus paving the way for this to continue happening.
I’ve also been criticized for not writing anything good about Bangladesh on an international platform. I quoted my first CNN iReport which was written in a neutral point of view. That topic might be controversial right now; but back then, it was a huge matter and I can’t count how many people have had positive thoughts on that piece. But I was repeatedly being asked about why I didn’t write about particular good topics, as if I’m a staff writer at the CNN and I should do all the writing. (Reminder: CNN iReport is open to all and anyone can publish their stories, writings, or articles.) Even so, if anyone would approach me to write about something, I wouldn’t have declined. It’s not like I never wrote good stuff about Bangladesh or its history. You can’t blame me for just writing current affairs that cause for concern, can you?
Why the take-down
At the end of this, you might ask that if I felt I haven’t done anything wrong by publishing that story on CNN iReport, why did I take it down? Well, the answer is simple. I want the actual situation (the question paper leak) to be resolved, not create another situation because of my few hours’ worth of work. If there has to be a discussion, let that be about what’s going on, not about what I wrote about what’s going on.
I am a Bangladeshi and I’ve always been proud to say that. Despite it being a third-world country with a very small space on the world map, our people have managed to achieve big things that make the country proud, almost none of which come from the government. We have youngsters who are now shaping the IT industry in Bangladesh and making a new landmark in our country.
So believe me when I say hurting its image was never the intention of that piece. It was an opinion piece written from a neutral, if not partial to Bangladesh, point of view and the idea was to grab attention of the authority before it was too late. I do apologize for hurting the sentiments of others who read it.
But still I’d love to know what journalists, journalism students, and those with good idea on journalism ethics have to say about this. If an appointed journalist is asked to write about something that — though true — might hurt the image of the country, what should he do?
P.S.: Like most other times, I’ve managed to reap some good things out of this experience. I always like people who are brave enough and open enough to ‘say it to my face.’ I’ve observed some people who have been sharing this link on Facebook and calling me a “known stupid” after unfriending me from their list. But they could’ve just messaged me saying what they think and let me know that they are hurt by my writing.
It’s good for me that they unfriended me. I don’t want people who talk, or criticize, behind my back. I only thank those who stayed in touch and openly shared what they felt.
P.S.S.: The piece is live on this blog. This is not CNN, so I hope you are okay sharing my thoughts on my personal blog.