The electronic media can broadcast incidents of chaos, mutiny and unlawful acts of any member of the armed forces or law enforcement agencies without instigating violence or demeaning the entire force, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said yesterday.
Defending the new broadcast policy, Inu said it had been formulated to help the electronic media flourish on its own and reduce government's control over it.
“The broadcast policy is a guideline … It is not authoritarian. It is not a law and it does not have any provision for punishment. The claim that the policy intends to strangle the media is completely baseless and imaginary,” he said at a crowded press conference at the PID conference room.
The briefing was held in the wake of widespread criticism of the policy by media professionals who demand immediate formation of an independent commission to oversee the policy's implementation.
The minister claimed the policy was made to bring transparency and accountability in the electronic media. “Its every provision is beneficial and helpful for the media,” he said.
Inu presented written statements on nine specific points, and answered queries from journalists about the policy that prohibits broadcast of any news that might taint the image of the armed forces and law enforcement agencies.
On broadcasting news on the armed forces or law enforcers, he said the policy doesn't deter the media from covering news or revealing the truth. If any member breaches discipline of the forces or engages in unlawful activities, the media can broadcast news on it.
“For example, if any member of the army grabs land, journalists can broadcast news against the person. But it is not ethical to undermine the entire force for the misconduct of one bad element, and the media cannot term the entire force land grabber,” Inu said.
The electronic media can broadcast footage of incidents like hurling of bombs at buses, but it cannot air news that will instigate violence, he said.
About the provision that asks electronic media houses to have a specific charter of duties and editorial policy not contrary to the broadcast policy, Inu said it is in no way meant for interfering in their editorial sovereignty.
“It is a coordinated guideline that will protect their editorial sovereignty from unwanted meddling and commercial interests.”
The minister claimed the national broadcast policy is not contradictory to the country's constitution that ensures the freedom of expression and the media.
On the formation of an independent commission to oversee the policy's implementation, Inu said the prime minister had already given directives for drafting a broadcast law for constituting the commission.
“But it is not possible to form the commission overnight as it involves a lengthy process.” It could take at least one to two months to start drafting the law in consultation with the stakeholders.
Once the independent commission is formed, the information ministry will devolve to the commission the responsibilities for overseeing the electronic media, he said.
Inu also trashed the allegation that the broadcast policy didn't reflect the opinions of all stakeholders and members of the committee that drafted the policy.
The minister said those who didn't understand the policy had misinterpreted it and criticised it.
“We want praise, not criticism for the policy,” he said.
If anyone thinks that there is ambiguity or any unclear provision in the policy, the person can make proposals at the time of drafting the broadcast law. “I hope all stakeholders will play active role in drafting the law,” he said.
Once the commission is formed, it will oversee the electronic media and take action if any media house violates the policy, said Inu.
Referring to some Rab members' alleged role in the seven murders in Narayanganj, a reporter asked the minister whether the media would be allowed to broadcast news in the future even if it tarnishes the image of any law enforcement agency.
In reply, Inu said if any incident happens, there is no bar to covering it. Such incidents will rather help correct the force.
The minister said media people should not be worried about the new broadcast policy.