Editors and senior journalists suggested that the Election Commission should take all-out steps to earn trust of the people and political parties in preparation for holding free, fair and inclusive parliamentary elections.
Some of them also called for army deployment and reintroducing of “no vote” in the next polls while some opposed the ideas put forward by civil society representatives during their talks with the EC.
Following a meeting, EC acting secretary Helal Uddin Ahmed told the media that senior journalists were of the opinion that measures should be taken to ensure participation of all political parties in the next general polls, army be deployed, if needed, and “no vote” be reintroduced.
Regarding army deployment, Helal said election commissioners would make the decision after talking to all stakeholders including political parties.
Referring to the discussion at the meeting, he said journalists had also suggested taking measures to ensure safety and security of the minorities before and after polls, amending the People's Representation Order and re-demarcating the constituencies.
Non-partisan returning officers should be appointed, the use of religion should be prohibited in election campaigns and voting rights of expatriates ensured. The EC should also allow candidates to submit nomination papers online and journalists to access candidates' affidavits but forbid war criminals from participating in the polls.
Nayeem Nizam, editor of Bangladesh Pratidin, said, “We have given opinions on how to create an environment to ensure participation of all political parties.”
Journalists also urged the commission to play a neutral role and implement the existing laws, he added.
Muhammad Shafiqur Rahman, president of the Jatiya Press Club, said he was not in support of army deployment as, according to him, army should be deployed only in national disasters and that the other law enforcement agencies were enough to oversee elections.
Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul, president of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, said, “Election is a political festival. Steps should be taken so that all political parties participate. The Election Commission should earn the trust of all political parties.”
Senior journalist Mahfuz Ullah said journalists had requested the EC to ensure that January 5 election would not be repeated. There should be major reshuffles at the field-level administration before the election.
Shyamal Dutta, editor of Bhorer Kagoj, said political consensus was very important for a free, fair and inclusive election. “The commission should give emphasis on earning trust of the political parties. It has to go a long way to earn that trust.”
Regarding army deployment, he said, “The objective is fair election, and to hold a fair election any force can be deployed.”
Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, chief editor of the daily Manabjamin, said, “Army has been deployed in elections in many countries across the world. We are not inhabitants of an alienated island that army should not be deployed.”
Senior journalist Amanullah Kabir suggested creating a level-playing field for all political parties.
The EC will hold talks with electronic and online media editors and senior journalists today at its office.