Tk 10 lakh struck out, fine stays
The information and broadcasting ministry yesterday placed the draft Press Council (Amendment) Act-2022, before the cabinet with a provision for the council to fine media outlets up to Tk 10 lakh for compromising state security, harming public harmony, and unethical journalism.
The cabinet, however, crossed out the fine amounts, said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam at a press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
Anwarul said the draft proposed a fine of Tk 5 lakh for intentionally violating section 12 of the act. He, however, did not say what is in section 12.
He said the press council act would be applicable to print and digital media houses.
"They [the ministry] proposed the fine amounts, but the cabinet did not agree to those," said the cabinet secretary, adding that the fine would be at the discretion of the council.
"Only primary approval has been given since it is a subject of discussion. It will be placed before the cabinet again for the final approval," he said.
Asked whether the press council was being given unbridled power, Anwarul replied that it could not be said until the draft was finalised.
There is only a provision for rebuke in the existing press council rules.
In the proposed act, there is a new provision that gives power to the council to order a news outlet to publish a certain item.
"Besides, the press council would, on its own accord, take into cognition any offence related to the publication of news, articles or cartoons by a newspaper or news agency that goes against the council's code of conduct or that compromises security, independence, and sovereignty of the country," he said.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that cartoons were subjective, he said, "If you publish an obnoxious cartoon against the state in print or digital media, won't it be an offence?"
Last week, Justice Nizamul Huq Nasim, chairman of the Bangladesh Press Council, at a programme drew the attention of journalists to the draft amendment to the press council act.
During a meeting with journalist leaders that week, Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said the proposal to amend the act was made five years ago and that it was under process.