The information ministry yesterday published a gazette on the National Broadcast Policy 2014 for television and radio, ignoring worries about a possible misuse of some of its provisions.
With this move, the policy comes into force and the ministry can now enforce it to regulate the contents of the electronic media, including news, talk shows and advertisements.
The cabinet on Monday approved the policy, which imposes some restrictions on news, talk shows and advertisements. According to the policy, no one can provide false or misleading information or statistics on talk shows, discussions and news.
Media professionals said the gazette has placed them in an uncomfortable position.
“Everyone in the electronic media and those who attend talk shows, discussions and other programmes will now feel some kind of pressure thinking that somebody up the ranks is monitoring them,” said Shykh Siraj, director of the private TV station Channel i.
The scope for discussion with the government is still there to relieve the media of discomfort, he added. “We'll sit with the information minister soon to discuss the issue.”
Siraj, who is general secretary of the Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO), hoped that the thriving mass media would not go backward due to the policy. “Both the country and the government will be benefited if the media flourish further.”
Media personalities and rights groups had urged the government not to bring the policy into force until an independent broadcast commission, the ultimate implementing authority, was formed.
The policy did not mention any time frame for the formation of the commission, raising worries that the information ministry might enforce the policy if the commission was not constituted soon. In that case, the ministry might misuse the policy provisions in the name of maintaining standard of news, programmes and advertisements.
The ministry will now place a bill in parliament to enact the national broadcast act.
ATCO has demanded the immediate formation of an independent broadcast commission with competent members. It has insisted that the ministry should not enforce the policy until the commission is formed.
PROTESTS POUR IN
The Jatiya Press Club yesterday expressed concern over the enforcement of the National Broadcast Policy 2014.
Condemning the gazette on the policy, the club in a statement demanded immediate scrapping of the policy.
“Such a policy is an ill attempt to tie the hands and legs of the country's private television channels and radio stations,” read the statement.
Supreme Court Bar Association President Khandker Mahbub Hossain said the national broadcast policy was an ill attempt of the government to gag the media.
The talk shows could now be fully controlled through this policy, he told a press conference at the auditorium of the SCBA.
Meanwhile, police yesterday charged batons on Jamaat-Shibir men in the capital's Arambagh while they were holding a meeting in the area to protest the national broadcast policy.
Four people were injured in the incident and eight Jamaat-Shibir men were detained by police, said a Jamaat-e-Islami leader.
Speaking at the meeting before the skirmish began, Shafiqul Islam Masud, assistant secretary of Dhaka city Jamaat, said the “illegal” government wanted to prolong its rule through conspiracies.
“By enforcing the repressive broadcast policy, the government wants to gag the media. There will be no freedom of expression if the policy is implemented,” he mentioned.