Political analysts and civil society members yesterday warned that the National Broadcast Policy would ultimately lead to autocracy and violence in the country.
It is part of the government's political blueprint to suppress people's voice and cling to power for a longer period, they said, urging an immediate review of the policy for the interest of democracy, good governance, and human rights.
“If we allow the policy, bureaucracy will be able to evade accountability. If torture by police or Rab is not published in newspapers, can you think what will happen?” said Dr Dilara Chowdhury, former professor of government and politics at Jahangirnagar University. She alluded to a provision, which imposes restriction on broadcasts "demeaning" the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, and government officials. “Police in general have a negative attitude towards the women, raped or tortured. Where will these victims go if media don't publicise such negligence of police?”
The professor said amid the absence of an active opposition in parliament, there were a few civil society groups and media critical of government's wrongdoings. But, without a free media, civil society cannot talk, she said.
“The loss of press freedom means suppression and repression. Its result is nothing but violence,” said Dilara, also trustee of Brac University.
The observations came at a roundtable on the policy, which took effect on August 7. Sushashoner Janney Nagorik (SHUJAN) organised it at the capital's Jatiya Press Club.
SHUJAN Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said the coverage of the January 5 one-sided vote and law enforcers' involvement in the seven murders in Narayanganj had created the pretext for passing the broadcast policy.
“The policy and the way power is being used in Bangladesh suggest that the country is heading towards authoritarianism,” said Prof Abu Sayeed, former information minister from the Awami League.
“Businessmen and politicians have gripped the state today, and media must publicise their irregularities. Sixty to seventy percent of MPs are businessmen now,” he said.
The politician believes the broadcast policy and the move to empower parliament to impeach Supreme Court judges is tied.
Columnist Syed Abul Maksud said the policy would gradually strengthen the government's grip on media.
Media and democracy will be threatened if it is enforced, said SHUJAN President M Hafizuddin Khan.
In his keynote paper, media personality Muhammad Jahangir proposed formation of a committee of media and legal experts that will rectify the broadcast policy and make recommendations for drafting a law. He also suggested formation of a media council, with Bangladesh Press Council merged into it, to bring all print and electronic media under one umbrella.
Dr Golam Rahman, a journalism professor at Dhaka University, and Nayeemul Islam Khan, editor of the Amader Orthonity, also spoke.