Journalist unions yesterday expressed deep concern over the sweeping comments of some lawyers on the media, and the court's summoning of two top journalist leaders of Dhaka Reporters Unity.
Journalists, noted the unions, like all other citizens, are not above the law, and the law will take its natural course if there are any specific allegations against any media or anyone related to it. But they surely expect protection from the state regarding a preservation of the professional calling of the journalists' community, they said.
Leaders of both factions of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) said the media and the judiciary of the country have had a great tradition of good relations.
In a statement, they said despite many limitations and crises, the media, as the fourth pillar of the state, have been playing their role in a professional manner. In case of any lapses, there is a press council that can be approached for corrective measures to be taken.
Besides, media houses have their internal editorial and institutional policies, while the state has various institutions to regularly train journalists on a regular basis. There is, however, until now, no specific guidelines regarding the concept of contempt of court, the statement said.
Had specific guidelines for news, analyses and interpretations related to the judiciary and judges been there, many of the problems that have arisen could have been addressed,” it said.
In the absence of such guidelines, journalists out of their own considerations carry out their responsibilities, making certain they maintain due respect for the country's laws, judiciary and judges, the statement added.
“There is no scope for wholesale comments to be made to the effect that any news reports or analyses, even if they leave anyone aggrieved, were intentional,” it said.
The journalist leaders said killing or persecution of journalists, impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the crimes or closure of media outlets are not the only threats to a free press. If the media feel helpless in playing their due role, and are worried for any reason, it is a sign of how the freedom of the media remains under threat, they noted.
“We believe that just as any specific allegations should go through due legal process, so is it important for an environment of dignity and compromise among various pillars of the state to be upheld both informally and formally”, said the journalist leaders in their statement.
The nation's journalists expected that all concerned would realise this truth, noted the statement.
The signatories to the statement included BFUJ presidents Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul and Ruhul Amin Gazi, DUJ presidents Altaf Mahmud and Abdul Hye Shikdar, BFUJ secretaries general Abdul Jalil Bhuiyan and Shaukat Mahmud, DUJ General Secretaries Kuddus Afrad and Jahangir Alam Pradhan.