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 Ittefaq in a hole as brothers fight for control...............

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PostSubject: Ittefaq in a hole as brothers fight for control...............   Wed Apr 01, 2009 9:09 pm



The battle between two brothers for control has thrown a dark cloud over the future of the Daily Ittefaq, one of the oldest and largest-selling Bengali broadsheets.

Most of the paper's journalists and employees did not go to work Wednesday, avoiding the office, access to which was heavily guarded by police all day long.

A few journalists turned up after evening, their colleagues said.

Mainul Hosein, the chairman of the editorial board and elder son of founder Tofazzal Hossain Manik Mia, told us"conspiracies" were ongoing against the daily.

"We are fearing that (younger brother) Anwar Hossain Manju may create trouble using political advantages."

Mainul said they called in police for security to prevent a repeat of the violence and bomb explosions in the past.

A newspaper worker died when gunmen hired by the brothers fired shots and blasted bombs over control of the paper in the early 90s.

Manju, the former publisher and editor of the paper published since Dec 24, 1953, told us he would not comment on what his senior sibling said.

"Why should I be scheming and plotting against Ittefaq? It was he who wrote to the deputy commissioner's office for permanent appointment of the temporary editor.

"They responded on the matter, as well. I've nothing to do here," Manju retorted.

Political power seesawed between the brothers over the years. Manju was a powerful member of military strongman HM Ershad's cabinet in the 80s and the communications minister in the 1996-2001 cabinet of Sheikh Hasina, who is prime minister again.

Mainul became law adviser to the 2007-2008 military-installed caretaker government although he quit abruptly.

Manju left the country facing a slew of charges, and was convicted in more than one case, when Mainul became adviser.

A senior journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said two of Mainul's sons asked a senior journalist and others Monday night to leave the newsroom.

"The city edition of the paper did not hit the newsstands (Wednesday)," he added.

The journalist said he saw a few sub-editors and the news editor in the newsroom while he was in the office from morning until 4:30pm.

The Dhaka additional district magistrate allowed Saju Hosein, Mainul Hosein's wife, to take charge as stand-in publisher on Oct 17, 2007 while Manju was abroad. Later acting editor Rahat Khan took over as editor.

The shuffle at the top followed sacking of scores of journalists and press workers and fresh appointments.

Mainul said those who lost jobs might try to create trouble but the paper needed to be published regularly.

Manju questioned," Who's responsible for the current state of the paper? I, for one, am not.

He alleged that some 250 Ittefaq journalists were fired while he was abroad.

Shah Alam, an assistant at the newspaper publication section at the Dhaka additional district magistrate's office, told us they sent a letter on Mar 25 to the Ittefaq management stating that Manju was the legal publisher and editor according to the newspaper declaration law.

He has yet to resign by filling out form C as specified by the law.

"So no-one else can be declared the publisher and editor of Ittefaq," Alam added.

He said Manju petitioned to the additional Dhaka district magistrate's office in February and March for orders that his name be run in the printer's line of the daily since he still legally held the positions.

Manju argued that though he was convicted of criminal charges, his appeals were pending in the higher court. It meant he was not yet guilty of the charges.

Alam further said Saju Hosein wrote to them in 2007 that Manju lost the legal right to continue as the publisher and editor since he had been convicted of criminal charges.

Manju was abroad for medical treatment at the time, which was why Saju Hosein was allowed to become the publisher and editor.

A press release signed by Mainul Hosein Wednesday said the company, not any individual, was the owner and publisher of the daily after the death of original owner Manik Mia.

The company will decide who will be the publisher and editor of the paper and when. Accordingly, the company put Saju Hosein in the job of acting publisher and editor.

The statement said the Ittefaq management will go to court, if necessary, to put to rest the "nasty debate" over the issue.
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