Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu inaugurated the country’s maiden children’s news website.
He termed the initiative ‘a new start’ and said it added a new dimension to the country’s mass media which in turn would help the state, society and democracy progress.
Children and adolescent journalists aged 10-17 years will gather and deliver news to the specially-designed website targeting readers of their age. The landmark move signals the inception of a new era in the country’s news service.
The country’s first internet newspaper, bdnews24.com, is running the website in partnership with UNICEF, or the United Nations Children's Fund.
Representative of UNICEF Bangladesh Pascal Villeneuve said the initiative was the ‘inception of a new history’ in Bangladesh.
bdnews24.com Editor-in-Chief Toufique Imrose Khalidi said the children would say the things they could not for a long time through this site.
Information Secretary Hedayetullah Al Mamoon, bdnews24.com Social Affairs Editor Baby Maudud, among others, graced the opening ceremony at the Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in Dhaka.
Purba Biswas and Alif Md Imtiaz Nur Nishan spoke at the programme on behalf of the children journalists selected for the service.
The launching ceremony was telecast live at bdnews24.com website.
The internet-only newspaper was the first in the country to launch a specialised website for children, kidz.bdnews24.com, in 2007 which gained huge popularity within a short time.
Although the new website mainly targets children, it cannot be termed ‘juvenile’. The site aims to create an environment where children will be aware of their rights along with professionalism and objectivity of the media.
At the opening ceremony, Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the children were the ‘future’ of Bangladesh who would run the country after reaching adulthood. He said the children journalists would have to stress on 'ethics’ while working.
He also urged them to highlight the condition of fellow children who made up a huge portion of the country’s total population.
Inu said the young journalists were ‘represented’ by the deprived children of the society. “It is your (children journalists) duty to project the condition of their (deprived children) sorrows and sufferings.”
The Information Minister said the media was the ‘mirror’ of democracy. “It is the duty of the state and the people in the media to keep it clean. Democracy will be damaged if it (the media) becomes tainted.”
Inaugurating the new site, an elated Inu said, “This is ‘Digital Bangladesh’.”
Khalidi said bdnews24.com was proud to be a partner of the initiative.
“It is a matter of great pride that six years after the launch of the first website for children in Bengali – kidz.bdnews24.com, we have been able to introduce them to professional journalism. We are happy to have the UNICEF by our side,” he said.
“bdnews24.com has been a pioneer in many areas and our latest endeavour is a continuation of that.
“We believe that this website will produce many world-class journalists,” he added.
Highlighting various aspects of the work carried out by bdnews24.com, he said the news portal was a bridge between online and traditional media.
“I believe this initiative will produce world-class journalists from within children between the ages 10-17 years, who our colleagues selected from thousands across Bangladesh.”
On naming the new website ‘Hello’, he said, “We always thought of having a name which children of all ages will find easy to pronounce. Whatever its origin, hello - or something similar to it, is available in almost every language around the world.”
“Through this site, the children will say the things they could not say for a long time. So we couldn’t think of any alternative to ‘Hello’.”
“Our objective is guided not only by commercial interests, but more to fulfil our responsibilities towards the children. Apart from information related to and based on the UN Charter on Child Rights, the children will also be made aware of different types of news,” Khalidi said.
“We hope this professional experience will help them in the future.”
UNICEF’s Pascal Villeneuve said this platform will help the children make their own spaces and will be instrumental in solving their problems.
Villeneuve said other media outlets could use the news published on the new site.
The UNICEF representative thanked bdnews24.com for being its partner in the unprecedented initiative and invited mainstream media personnel to visit the site.
He also observed that hello.bdnews24.com would also play a vital role in preventing various social problems faced by the children, for example, child labour and child marriage.
Bhola’s child journalist Purba said, “It will help us become more aware by expressing our own socio-political thoughts on this site.”
Alif Mohammad Nur Nishan from Cox’s Bazar said, “Hello will contribute by creating representatives to highlight the problems faced by the children.”
After their speeches, Editor-in-Chief Khalidi handed over a special manual for children ‘An easy guide to journalism’ to the Information Minister who was the chief guest at the programme.
The minister then presented the young journalists with copies of the special manual.
bdnews24.com Social Affairs Editor Baby Maudud said the UNICEF had proposed to work together with bdnews24.com on children journalism given the country’s first Internet newspaper’s reputation of providing fact-based news and popularity of the children’s site.
“hello.bdnews24.com is a result of the joint effort as the initiative has 'opened doors of possibilities' for all Bengali-speaking children,” she said to conclude the programme.
On Friday, at a pre-launch media call, UNICEF Communications Specialist AM Sakil Faizullah had said, “We don’t see presence of children in the media even though they constitute 45 percent of the country’s total population.”
He had cited two surveys the UNICEF conducted in 2009 and 2011 to say only three percent of the news run by the mainstream media deals with children, of which 2 percent are accident-related and other news. Only one percent of news deals with child rights issues.
The official hoped that the rate will rise to 10 percent through hello.bdnews24.com.
bdnews24.com also being a news agency means other media will be able to publish news uploaded on hello.bdnews24.com, he added.
Along its arduous search, 210 children were primarily chosen through written and oral tests from around 3,000 aspirants from 20 districts by the UNICEF to work with hello.bdnews24.com.
bdnews24.com later conducted a workshop with the selected children.
Bangladesh’s first web portal had put much effort to ensure participation of children from all classes of society, including those physically challenged and underprivileged.
The internet-only newspaper has said the trained children journalists will be able to contribute to the mainstream media under the supervision of experienced journalists of bdnews24.com. The children’s reports will primarily be done in Bengali and will be open to other news agencies in Bangladesh. Their important news will be translated into English.