Ignoring public outcry on social networking sites, a media group went ahead with its scheduled Meril-Prothom Alo awards ceremony on Friday even as the entire country is mourning the demise of hundreds in a building tragedy.
Many had requested organisers of the programme to postpone the programme since more than 300 people died and many more were injured the death toll set to climb further.
Celebrities from cultural arena joined the evening razzle-dazzle at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Dhaka. Meril is a product line of Square Toiletries Limited, a subsidiary of Square Group of Companies.
Blog activist Omi Rahman Pial in his Facebook status launched a scathing attack on management of the second best-selling broadsheet newspaper in Bangladesh for not shelving with the show. He said the artists could not dare to turn down invitation from the daily due to its ‘huge influence’.
Pial insisted the celebrities should not attend the programme and ask the organisers to defer it. He asked them not to celebrate, sing and dance, for a single day as a mark of respect to those killed.
He requested the artists to be compassionate at least for a day. Pial criticised the daily for organising the programme and argued the artists should not take part in it since they too are ‘workers to some extent’.
Arif Jebtik, a blogger, in his Facebook status said, the nation had 300 bodies on its shoulder waiting to be buried and 3,000 more were waiting to be rescued. He criticised the Prothom Alo and Meril for organising the programme and the artists for taking part in it.
Both of them are also activists of the Shahbagh’s Ganajagaran Mancha that is spearheading a mass uprising for execution of Pakistani collaborators who tried to prevent the birth of Bangladesh in 1971.
Readers were apparently shocked after the daily on Thursday ran a report on its online edition about the programme. A reader lamented that the programme is organised at a time when the nation is ‘shocked at the Savar tragedy’. ‘Bipul’ said the programme could have been postponed for a week.
Another reader hoped the cultural artists would postpone the programme for several days.
‘Shahbagh E Cyber Juddha’ (Cyber war at Shahbagh), a Facebook page, said organising the programme was ‘despicable’ at this time.
Journalist Supriti Dhar asked whether this was the ‘right time to hold such a flamboyant programme’.
A former Prothom Alo journalist, Gias Ahmed, wrote all the institutions of the country had postponed their Friday’s scheduled programmes to honour the victims of the Savar tragedy and said the only exception was the daily. “This is our comrade Matiur Rahman … One who called for changes ... Shame!” he wrote.
Rahman is the Editor of the daily that campaigns for ‘change’.
The paper had recently retracted a short story by Hasnat Abdul Hye carried in its Bangla New Year special on Apr 14 following criticism of gender insensitivity. Both the Editor and the writer had offered apologises and withdrew the short story.
Hundreds of people are still feared trapped under the debris of Rana Plaza which housed five clothes factories that manufacture products for world famous retailers.