Unfettered press is the best security for a country | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 20, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 20, 2019

Unfettered press is the best security for a country

Bangladesh has slipped four notches in Press Freedom Index

It seems that insofar as the freedom of the press is concerned, Bangladesh is going down at an increasing rate. According to the 2019 report on media freedom by Reporters Without Borders published recently, we stand at 150 out of 180 countries listed, a drop by four positions from last year. The previous year the drop was by two counts. It cannot be a pleasing thought that every other country of South Asia stands above us; even in Myanmar (where there's a virtual military government), the press seems to be doing somewhat better than ours.

Regrettably, the press in Bangladesh is in a unique situation. Like most segments of the society, the media has become fractured, and thus vulnerable to the powers that would want a pliant media. This has given way to the media exercising more self-censorship than is necessary for it to perform its job with impartiality and fairness, devoted to projecting news as it is rather than twisting the tale to give the people what a particular media outlet wants them to read. But there are compelling reasons for the press to choose discretion over valour—physical harassment of journalists by ruling party cadres, unnecessary litigation as well as the newly enacted draconian rules that encumber free media, are a few.

It cannot be lost on the government that a free media helps the administration to ensure good governance, working as a watchdog over its institutions and agencies that can be held accountable in the court of public opinion thanks to a free press.

A free media is an index of freedom in other spheres of people's life, and certainly of the state of democracy in a country. Admittedly, the media is not above accountability nor should it forget its own onerous task to pursue its duties in a responsible manner. However, it is for the government to ensure a suitable environment for it to function. It would do well for all to remember that “a free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad.”

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