The Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) yesterday urged the government not to implement the national broadcast policy on its own and right away, but rather have it done by an independent commission.
The commission, which must be formed as soon as possible, should be given a deadline to formulate a policy in consultation with all stakeholders, the leaders of the pro-ruling party union said at a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club.
The union was of the opinion that it was not a fully-fledged policy and that it was a guideline to formulate the policy.
The union leaders expressed concern over the fact that there was no timeframe given in the policy to form the commission and the information ministry was giving the job of implementing the policy before the commission was even formed.
“… the information ministry will decide everything about the policy,” said BFUJ President Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, adding, “We can say that no timeframe for the formation of the commission was kept in the policy to give the information ministry the authority to implement it. This will send the wrong message at home and abroad.”
The cabinet on August 3 approved the policy on TV and radio, imposing some restrictions on news, talk shows and ads.
The information ministry on Thursday published a gazette, which means the policy had come into effect and the ministry could enforce any of the provisions in the policy.
Signed by Bulbul and BFUJ Secretary General Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan, the union issued a statement terming the policy a product of journalists' demand. It also explained its position and the negative sides of the policy too.
“The move is good but we have concerns about some issues … We want those removed … The good move will yield a good policy and an act in the end,” read the statement.
Bulbul said the policy did not reflect the main issues that he, as a member of the policy formulation committee, had put forward. “Even I could not see the draft policy after it was finalised,” he said.
He said the policy did not mention anything about job security and the security of the huge investment in the sector. There should not be anything mandatory in the policy or else the commission will not be able to modify them in consultation with stakeholders.
Bulbul, who is chief editor of Boishakhi television, said there was no scope for giving false or misleading information on TV, even on talk shows and in discussions. If a broadcast media makes a mistake, there is always the opportunity to correct it.
If it goes uncorrected, steps could be taken against the media as per existing laws, he pointed out.
Bulbul said many of the points made compulsory in the policy were being nurtured by the electronic media already.
The Right to Information Act contradicted the provision of the policy that prohibits airing reports and footage that might demean the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, and government officials who can punish people for committing crimes, he said.
The BFUJ leader demanded more clarity in the formation of the commission and the qualifications of its chairman and members. “The structure of the search committee, which will select the chairman and members, and its tenure should be determined,” he said.
Broadcast journalists had been demanding a policy that would not curb their freedom but help the sector flourish.