There is a saying in Mass Communication that media make personality. Mass media can make a person prominent and ruin one’s reputation in no time. Taking advantage of media’s influence, a wicked man may grow and steal the show. Md Shahed of Regent Group is a glaring example.
Barely two months back, Shahed Karim alias Mohammad Shahed had vivid presence in television talk shows as a ‘political analyst’ where he used to give the nation sermons on all crucial issues relating to politics, health, economics, international affairs and even corruption and irregularities, and thus he earned name and fame and influence to carry out his fraudulent acts.
Since his misdeeds and widespread deceitful acts, including fake corona testing, came to light, netizens on social media platforms have been censuring media and questioning the integrity and irresponsibility of the authorities for promoting such a swindler and giving him access to abuse media platforms.
Experts think Shahed’s incident sent out a strong message for media people to go for a serious soul-searching on how a cunning man fooled them, and find out ways to protect the media’s credibility and ensure no bad element can get the scope to use the media’s power for his/her personal gain.
They also advised the media to be careful and check the backgrounds of people before introducing or highlighting them as ‘experts’ and inviting them to use their platforms, especially in TV talk shows.
Shahed’s media connections
The head of news of a private television, wishing anonymity, said Shahed was first invited to a talk show of a leading TV channel in 2010 as a ‘political analyst’. With the passage of time, he built connections with many senior journalists and got access to other television talk shows now and then.
Shahed even became more familiar and popular TV talker when he started using his identity as a member of the Awami League’s subcommittee on international affairs since 2017. His presence increased in almost all TV talk shows since 2018, and even he used to take part in two-three talk shows a day.
He also used to create pressure on TV authorities using his connections with influential people for inviting him to talk shows.
There is also an allegation that a group of journalists also favoured him to become a regular guest in TV talk shows where he met influential people, took photos with them and posted those on his Facebook account to exhibit how powerful he was.
Shahed not only became a regular participant in talk shows but also started hosting one in 2016. He even become an editor and owner of a name-only newspaper.
Shahed took a declaration of a daily newspaper named ‘Doinik Natun Kagoj’ and managed an accreditation card showing his newspaper. He also became the editor and publisher of the newspaper to use it as a shield to save himself from his various misdeeds.
At the end of the day, it is also the media which ran news on Regent Hospital’s corona test scam, prompting law enforcers to raid Regent Hospital and arrest him on July 15 in connection corona test and treatment scams.
Learning for media
Prof Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, former Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University (DU), said it is quite pity Shahed had very visible presence in the media as a talk show participant, host, political analyst and health expert.
“Even some media portrayed him as a humanist and kind of social worker when Regent Hospital began corona treatment. So, many questions have arisen in public mind about media’s role. People are in doubt whether the media was completely in the dark or they promoted a fraud knowing about his misdeeds,” he said.
Arefin, also a former professor of DU’s Mass Communication and Journalism department, said media’s main role is to check and cross-check before disseminating any information and highlighting anyone. “Had journalists played their due role, Shahed wouldn’t have got access to media and his misdeeds would have got exposed much earlier. It’s the mass media’s triviality that they wrongly promoted Shahed.”
Taking a lesson from Shahed’s incident, he said, media outlets should remain alert about their role and policy and weaknesses. “Media should now check and counter check about whom they invite to their programmes, talk show and highlight. Media should also keep a sharp eye on the activities of people they identify as experts and analysts so that a fraud like Shahed can’t exploit the media platforms.”
Daily Observer editor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said the media outlets and journalists need to do soul-searching to get the answer to people’s question about media’s role in the rise of a fraudster like Shahed.
“Shahed had been able to use media for his personal gain due to our sloppiness, weaknesses and irresponsibility. So, we should be more careful and responsible so that no one can fool media in the days to come as Shahed did,” he said.
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, ex-CEO of Ekushey Television, said Shahed’s incident is a big learning for media about choosing guests and experts for different programmes and comments.
“Television channels should now be careful while selecting guests for their programmes. Before introducing anyone as an expert or political analyst, media should check his or her background and activities,” Bulbul added.
About his joint photo with Shahed, Bulbul said he was not aware of his misdeeds and allowed him to take photo since he used to join many state programmes as a ruling party leader.
“Shahed not only fooled the media people but also the law enforcers and state machinery as his presence was everywhere. So, the media is not solely responsible for his emergence,” Bulbul added.