Denying that a government committee was "working secretly" to revive the provision of a law to cancel declarations of newspapers for publishing anti-state news or news hurting religious sentiments, the Information minister today said a move is on to update the 1973 law.
"The law [Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973] was formulated about 41 years ago. Since then, the media landscape and dynamics have been changed with the development of various technologies," Hasanul Huq Inu said today.
The minister's statement came after newspaper reports that a committee was working "secretly" on reviving the provision of cancellation of newspaper declaration while Inu publicly kept claiming that there was no such move.
The existing law’s sections related to inspection and supply of copies of the declaration fees and other fees, and ownership should be changed now, Inu said at a press conference at PID conference room at the Secretariat in Dhaka.
According to the existing law’s section 14, “the officer in charge of each original deposited under section 13 shall allow any person to inspect that original on payment of a fee of Taka two, and shall give to any person applying a copy thereof attested by the seal of the office which has the custody of the original, on payment of a fee of Taka four”.
Inu said a draft on the amended law would be formulated and put on online for comments from all stakeholders. The draft would be finalised after holding discussions with all stakeholders, he added.
Talking about the draft of the amended law, which Department of Films and Publications (DFP) sent to the ministry in March, Inu said a committee dealing with these laws did not accept DFP’s recommendations as those were “contradictory”.
On January 1, the information ministry formed an eight-member committee headed by an additional secretary to review laws related to printing and publishing and recommend necessary changes to make them suited to the times.
At the committee's first meeting held on February 24, it was decided to update the Printing Presses and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act 1973.
On March 18, the prime minister's Press Secretary AKM Shamim Chowdhury, member of this committee and former DG of DFP, sent the draft of the amended law from DFP to the ministry. The committee discussed the draft at its second meeting on April 28.
The draft stated that the district magistrate could cancel the publication of a newspaper for any anti-state or anti-religious content. This would be implemented by the information ministry or the court. The authorities of the accused newspaper would have the opportunity to defend themselves and submit an appeal within 60 days of the order.
From 1974 till 1990 the publication of several newspapers was cancelled. Then in 1991 Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed annulled this clause that went against press freedom.