Although the number of mass media outlets has multiplied in the country in recent years, professional freedom of journalists has been curbed, journalist leaders said yesterday.
The owners of media houses who have other businesses often manipulate news to serve their business interests rather than upholding the truth, they said.
The observations came from a discussion, "Media Freedom for a Better Future", organised by a faction of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) at the capital's Jatiya Press Club in observance of World Press Freedom Day.
Notorious land grabbers owning media outlets often try to legitimise their misdeeds through their media, said Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, president of the BFUJ faction.
He urged the government to investigate why Bangladesh slipped three notches down in the global ranking of press freedom and take steps to eradicate the hurdles towards press freedom.
A report published Thursday by Freedom House ranks Bangladesh 115th out of 197 nations, lower ranking indicating worse performance. The country ranked 112th last year.
Prime Minister's media advisor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury regretted that no one could be convicted following the killing of journalist couple Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi.
"Journalists live in insecurity. While they are often attacked while on duty, the owners of the houses they work for often do not pay them in due time and deny them their arrears," he said.
He urged the government to provide security to journalists and compensate them if they are attacked while on duty.
Abdul Jalil Bhuyian, secretary general of BFUJ, moderated the discussion.
Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, however, criticised the Freedom House report on press freedom for "undermining" Bangladesh.
"They have no right to do so," he said. "I challenge the report. We have made a lot of progress in upholding press freedom in recent years."
Other BFUJ leaders including Treasurer Khairuzzaman Kamal, Vice President Utpal Kumar Sarkar, and Joint Secretary Saiful Islam Talukder urged the government to take action against media house owners who deprive their journalists of salaries and arrears.