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English daily The Independent shuts down

The tumult has finally sounded the death knell for the English-language daily. It has now ceased all operations for good.

The decision was announced during a meeting with the staff on Sunday, according to the newspaper’s Executive Editor Shamim A Zahedi.

“The Independent newspaper has been shut down permanently from today. It is our owners’ decision. Our Editor-in-Chief M Shamsur Rahman held a meeting today and informed everyone about the matter,” he said.

All employees will be paid their dues in line with the law, Zahedi added.

But the promise of payment has done little to allay the frustrations of long-time staff of the daily.

Manjurul Haque Monju has been working for The Independent since its inception 27 years ago. As sports editor, he has been deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the newspaper.

“When the meeting was called today, I was hoping that we might start printing again. But I was shocked when the editor-in-chief said, ‘We’re going to lay you off from today.'”

The Independent started its journey on March 26, 1995. It was among a few media outlets launched by Independent Publications Limited, a unit of leading industrial conglomerate Beximco Group.

It caught the eye of readers as the first four-colour, 16-page daily in Bangladesh. It was also the first newspaper to use imported newsprint.

Within two years, the newspaper introduced a 32-page weekend magazine for the first time in Bangladesh. Other outlets later soon followed suit.

But the good days did not last long as the newspaper’s focus later turned to survival in a recessionary market.

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As the political climate changed, Independent Television was launched in 2010. At the same time, The Independent also went through an overhaul.

Its late Editor Mahbubul Alam said at the time, “Our aim is to create a new trend after 15 years.”

Alam was the editor of The Independent for 18 years. In 2007, he became the caretaker government’s information adviser.

After his death, M Shamsur Rahman took over as the editor and publisher of The Independent. But the newspaper was dealt a crippling blow in April 2020 following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the country went into lockdown, many people stopped buying print editions of newspapers from hawkers in fear of catching the virus.

Newspaper sales in Dhaka dropped by half in one fell swoop, prompting many outlets to temporarily stop printing in a bid to cut their losses. The Independent added its name to the list on Apr 6.

But hopes among its staff remained alive as the online edition of the paper kept going. That was until Sunday’s announcement.

Abu Zakir, a senior correspondent for The Independent, said, “After finishing my studies, I landed jobs in Sonali Bank and Independent newspaper at the same time. I stayed here because I love journalism.”

“I have been working here since 2010, but the newspaper closed today. I never thought it would close.”

Sports Editor Manjurul said, “We’ve been told that the dues will be paid in a very short time. A few years ago, we were told that it would be better for the newspaper to leave the wage board and employ its staff on a contractual basis.

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“We agreed to this in the interest of the newspaper. But my time on the wage board will not be taken into account. Many may not have protested, but they are sad. We didn’t want the newspaper to shut down this way.”

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