Justice Muhammad Habibur Rahman, a former chief justice and chief adviser of a caretaker government, yesterday said that the country's journalists were now divided into two factions and that social and political rogues were deriving clear advantage from such a divide.
He said that the newspaper industry was now a big investment sector where trading and money game were a common practice.
Journalists and the authorities now try to please each other, and in such a situation, a newspaper can just become a subservient one, he said.
The former chief adviser was addressing a seminar on “Freedom of Press: In the Context of Bangladesh” organised by Journalism Training and Research Initiative (Jatri) at its office in the capital's Karwanbazar on the eve of World Press Freedom Day 2012.
“Today, often freedom of newspaper owners is considered as freedom of the press”, he said, adding it was limited freedom.
Editors and publishers have government or social recognition and respect, he said. “Only a handful of readers can know whose interests they are serving under the cover of this respect.”
Justice Rahman went on, "Allegations are heard that from loan defaulters and land grabbers to military and non-military intelligence are financing the publication of newspapers. Investing in newspapers has become lucrative to the rich who often do not hesitate to publish something in print for immediate gains or creating panic and defeating rivals.”
He added, “Due to lack of security, the door for free journalism is getting closed. In such a situation, journalists will have to look after their own interests”, he said. “At least for the sake of getting justice, the two unions of journalists will have to be united, and I want to live with this hope.”
Earlier, the former chief adviser presented some data of repression on journalists till December 31 last year on the basis of reports of in 10 national dailies.
According to the reports, 288 journalists became victims in 154 incidents. Of them, 101 suffered repression for publishing reports while 110 were assaulted while covering news events and 47 came under attack by law enforcers.
Journalists shared their views at the programme moderated by Jatri chief executive Jamil Ahmed.
They regretted the absence of a policy for the press.