Misuse of law stifles press freedom
The country's newspapers have made significant contribution to the Liberation War struggle, creating a nation as well as establishing democracy, said speakers yesterday.
The discussants also said there should be no hurdles to practicing independent journalism.
They were speaking at a programme to honour 11 Bangla and English dailies for hitting the stands for at least 25 years. Newspaper Owners' Association of Bangladesh (Noab) organised the event at the Dhaka Club.
At the programme, Noab accorded reception to The Daily Sangbad, The Daily Ittefaq, The Daily Azadi, The Daily Purbanchal, The Daily Karatoa, The Daily Purbakone, The Daily Inqilab, The Daily Bhorer Kagoj, The Daily Janakantha, The Daily Star and The Daily Financial Express.
Speaking as the chief guest, Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury said newspapers have played an important role in expansion and practice of the freedom of speech. Press is the fourth pillar of democracy and its watchdog, she said.
"However, we can see how false news, misinformation and propaganda are flooding social media sites. Against this backdrop, ethical and responsible journalism is essential and it can bring positive change to society," she said.
Information Minister Hasan Mahmud said newspapers played a significant role in the Liberation War struggle. It also played an important role in making the country's democracy strong.
"Although print media is facing various challenges, I will keep its importance above all other media," the minister said.
The minister said media should focus on the country's development and positive changes. "No government can be 100 percent perfect. You should not only focus on mistakes and hide the successes."
He said many countries have enacted laws to give their people security in the digital sphere. "The government is alert so that none, including journalists, face any kind of harassment due to misuse of the Digital Security Act," he said.
The minister said the proposed Mass Media Employees (services and conditions) Bill-2022 was prepared as per demand of media workers. Newspaper journalists have wage board but there was no such arrangements for electronic and online media workers.
"We held discussion with stakeholders. We will also hold discussions to finalise, keeping in mind interests of media workers," he said.
The minister made the comments about an hour later Noab President AK Azad at the onset of the programme requested him to bring amendment to the Digital Security Act as the law minister has said that there were some "misuse" of the law and he also hinted at amending it.
AK Azad said, "Newspapers of the country are publishing news for the benefit of people for the last 50 years. But recently some laws are creating obstacles to work independently such as the Digital Security act."
He also urged the government to hold discussions with all stakeholders before passing of Mass Media Employees (services and conditions) Bill-2022.
The Daily Sangbad Editor Altamash Kabir said no one should face any obstacle while publishing accurate and credible news. The government should make sure that there is no misuse of law.
The Daily Ittefaq Editor Tasmima Hossain said the government should look into the facilities and issues of newspapers so that newspapers do not face tax burden and pressure of wage board. Also, the government should release the dues for its advertisements published by the newspapers.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam said they want more cordial relations with the government. "We, journalists, perform our duties professionally, aiming to contribute to the country's development," he said.
"We also celebrate success. But we also focus on failure, shortfalls... Many think we only portray negative things. I humbly want to say that we give attention to things that remain out of focus; things that no one pays heed to. Through independent journalism, we reach that information to the government so that their works become more effective and better," he said.
He said media is working cordially and with enthusiasm to be a part the country's development. "But many laws are being enacted and implemented that are disputing independent journalism," he added.
Among others, MA Malek of The Daily Azadi, Mozammal Huq of The Daily Karatoa, Ramizuddin Chowdhury of The Daily Purbakone, AMM Bahauddin of The Daily Inqilab, Tariq Sujat of The Daily Bhorer Kagoj and Shamsul Huq Zahid of The Daily Fianancial Express spoke at the programme.
Noab member Dewan Hanif Mahmud moderated the programme and its Vice President ASM Shahidullah Khan Badal gave the vote of thanks.