I can’t remember the period, exactly. Possibly, it was in the early part of 1994. Mr. Shahiduzzaman, then a senior reporter of the Dainik Janata and now editor of the News Network, one afternoon came to the office of the now defunct Bangladesh Times where I was then heading the reporting section as the city editor. We used to know each other well. Talking over a cup of tea, Shahiduzzaman raised an issue that he had earlier hinted at on a couple of occasions. But this time he sounded pretty serious.
It was about floating an organization of the economic reporters working in newspapers and news agencies with two primary objectives. The first one was to create pressure on the newspaper owners to give more space and prominence to economic news. The second one was about improving the professional skill of reporters covering financial, monetary and capital market issues. Shahiduzzaman wanted me to fix a date and time and invite some senior reporters specializing in economic issues. I did agree and, accordingly, we, nearly 12 reporters, met at the Shantinagar Office of the Dainik Janata. After a long discussion, we decided unanimously to float an organization named, the Economic Reporters Forum (ERF).
A convening committee with me as convener and Shahiduzzaman as joint convener was formed at the meeting. We all decided to make an initial contribution of Tk 200 each to a common fund of the new organization. Thus, the journey of the ERF began. At the first meeting of the convening committee held after a couple of weeks, Shahiduzzaman was given the responsibility of drafting a constitution for the ERF by consulting the charters of some other identical organizations. It was also decided to explore the possibility of procuring funds, preferably from international organizations.
It did not take too long a time to get such funds. The Asia Foundation agreed to provide the ERF with the same following the submission of a detailed programme. We prepared a programme that included discussion meetings and dialogues on current economic issues and training programmes for the ERF members to help sharpen their professional skills and make them better literate in financial matters. The Asia Foundation was satisfied with our programme details and provided the ERF with a fund worth Tk. 347,750. In the meanwhile, the ERF prepared its constitution and got it approved by the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms.
In the early part of 1995 a full-fledged committee for the ERF was constituted with Mr. AHM Moazzem Hossain, now editor of the Financial Express, and me as the president and the general secretary respectively of the ERF. The people who were associated with the birth of ERF had wanted the organization to operate and grow in a transparent manner, avoiding the vice known as rentseeking. This is all the more necessary to present this type of professional organization as a credible one.
We were successful in our mission. I am pretty convinced that the ERF is still valued as a respectable and credible organization in the government and business circles. One thing that the ERF is lacking is its own office. We did not have the means during the initial years to build one. However, the National Press Club had extended all possible help and cooperation to ERF. Even it allowed the ERF to use its VIP lounge free-of-cost or at nominal fees for holding discussion meetings and training programmes during the initial years.
I acknowledge with gratitude the help and cooperation extended by the Club. I hope that the Forum would acquire its own office soon with funds coming from honest sources. Here I like to stress on one thing that a professional forum of journalists is not just for organizing programmes of entertainment or picnic. Those are necessary, no doubt. But it has to hold serious programmes to make its members better equipped, professionally.