Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

Doyen of journalists: Mahbubul Alam

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Mohammad Amjad Hossain :
ince departure from this materialistic world on 6 June of 2014 I would like to recall Mr Mahbubul Alam’s excellent performances as Director General of External Publicity Division of the Ministry of Foreign affairs of Bangladesh following departure of renowned print and electronic media personality Syed Najmuddin Hashim to join Bangladesh embassy in London as Press Minister. Both of them reached pinnacle of glory in their career to become Ambassador of Bangladesh. Syed  Najmuddin  Hashim served as Ambassador to Soviet Union and Burma while Mr Mahbubul Alam to Bhutan. Mr Alam also served as Minister (Press) in Bangladesh embassy in USA and UK as well.
I have had close contact with deceased Mahbubul Alam, doyen of journalists when he joined external publicity division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Director-General in May of 1982 on my return from diplomatic assignment in Bangladesh embassy in Kuala Lumpur of Malaysia. At that time, I was serving External publicity division as Deputy Director. Prior to joining External Publicity division, Mr Mahbubul Alam was Editor of The Independent newspaper.
This writer recalled that Mr Mahbubul Alam was appointed as first Press Secretary to Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman but he could not continue as a result of virulent criticism ushered by Indian journalists based in Dhaka.
During crackdown by marauding Pakistan armed forces Mr.Mahbubul Alam served as correspondent of Associate Press of Pakistan and Associate Press as well. Mr Mahbubul Alam was appointed as Editor of defunct Morning News following departure of its editor Syed Badruddin (Urdu speaking)  out of fear of reprisal.
During his tenure in the Ministry of Foreign affairs we have had developed excellent working relations. Since External Publicity Division of Ministry Foreign affairs did not have apparatus and resources to project the image of the country abroad and inform the world community at large and national residing abroad of the policies of the government and development activities taking place in the country (reference my article in the Daily Star of 3 August, 1992 on External Publicity). Mr Mahbubul Alam devised a new strategy to develop excellent relations with visiting foreign News media personalities while he gave a thought to develop this wing in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also become spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. A good amount of money was set aside by Foreign Ministry at his request to entertain foreign news media personalities. We opened secret account with Hotel Intercontinental and Sonargaon hotel as well.
Having meetings with foreign journalists Mahbubul Alam entertained them to keep them on good humor. Incidentally, I was given assignment in fixing up appointments for foreign journalists with important personalities and preparing analytical notes on their published reports for the perusal of higher authorities. For the first time we developed dossiers on visiting foreign journalists as well. In connection with 14th Islamic conference of foreign ministers in Dhaka from 6 to 11 December of 1983, we received Editor of Saudi Gazette Mr Saad ar-Khairi and entertained him at Dhaka club. Incidentally, Mr Saad ar Khairi was my superior boss in External Publicity wing in Islamabad wherein I served as Information officer from August, 1968 to August, 1971. Mr Saad ar Khairi was Director General on completion of his assignment as Ambassador. I was looking after western desk plus RCD and IPEC. Along with my wife I left Islamabad via Karachi and Ceylon to reach Dacca on 27 August, 1971.  
This writer was not spared by DG Mr Mahbubul Alam despite I was down with influenza to attend Islamic foreign Ministers conference to help foreign journalists. To speak the truth,  Mr  Mahbubul Alam brought energy in External Publicity division like that of Ambassador Humayun Kabir, who served in 1972-1974. During  tenure of Ambassador Humayun Kabir in External Publicity we brought out a number of publications, including one on war crimes in erstwhile East Pakistan. The book: Operation: death and destruction were compiled by this writer. Three interviews were included in the book including that of Lily Choudhury, wife of Professor Munier Choudhury, Wife of Sirajuddin Hossain, News Editor of Daily Ittefaq and wife of BBC stringer, Nizamuddin Ahmed. This writer took interviews.
On being appointed as Ambassador to Bhutan, Mahbubul Alam dropped in my office with the request to arrange trolley trip to cross Bangladesh border to Bhutan. From border he planned to travel by bus to reach Thimphu, capital of Bhutan instead of flying by plane to Kolkata and Thimphu. The reason was to acquaint himself with country side of Bhutan. On completion of serving as Ambassador to Bhutan Mahbubul Alam rejoined as Editor of the Independent. Occasionally Mr Alam admonished this writer not to write to his newspaper, but this writer complied with number of articles to his newspaper.  On his visit at the invitation of German government some times in 1997 Mr Mahbubul Alam was a guest of honor at my official residence in Germany to have dinner where this writer served Counsellor (Political) in Bangladesh embassy in Bonn.
Mr.Mahbubul Alam had worn many hats to his credit who served National News agency: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha as Chief Editor and Managing Director and served editor of Weekly Dialogue after resignation of Syed Najmuddin Hashim, apart from New Nation daily and President of Newspaper owners' association of Bangladesh. Mr Mahbubul Alam had unique privilege to serve care taker administration in 2007 as Information affairs advisor. He was amiable personality who made indelible mark in Journalism. He left behind wife and three daughters to mourn his death. May Allah bless him in heaven. 
(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat and former President of Nova chapter of Toastmaster International club of America)

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