Freedom of the press is seriously threatened

And because of this, our democracy is also in danger

Whether the government realizes it or not, it also loses out – for without an independent press, how can it feel the pulse of the citizens? Photo: Collected

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Whether the government realizes it or not, it also loses out – for without an independent press, how can it feel the pulse of the citizens? Photo: Collected

In a discussion hosted by the Editors’ Council on Saturday, newspaper editors and academics expressed concern, saying that press and speech freedoms in Bangladesh were under serious threat. Despite article 39 of our constitution guaranteeing the right of all citizens to freedom of speech and expression, as well as freedom of the press, these rights are under attack from all sides, according to the speakers. We cannot agree more.

On the one hand, the antagonistic position of government authorities and the various state apparatuses on the publication of any information revealing their incapacity or incompetence, or criticizing them, has often led to the use of all the power of the state to suppress independent journalists and journalism. On the other hand, the attempt at corporate control of the media by various business houses that own media is leading to the stifling of independent journalism within the industry itself.

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The first asset of any newspaper is its credibility. As business owners attempt to use different newspapers for their own benefit, this credibility is likely to deteriorate rapidly. This does not bode well for journalism in the long run. On the other hand, as the government attempted to use various tools such as sedition laws, the draconian Digital Security Act (DSA) and the Official Secrets Act of 1923 to suppress freedom of the press, the various institutions and mechanisms that are supposed to be in place to protect the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press have seriously failed. The end result is that the independent press, an essential pillar of any democracy, is under enormous pressure, which endangers our democracy, because an informed public is a prerequisite for the functioning of any democracy.

Whether the government realizes it or not, it is also the loser – because without an independent press, how can it feel the pulse of the citizens? What channels can it rely on to have an accurate picture of its performance?

The government needs to seriously reassess many of the laws and mechanisms it has put in place that stifle free speech and press freedom. Instead of viewing every criticism as something hostile or conspiratorial in nature, authorities need to understand that the main function of independent journalism is to shed light on uncomfortable truths which are often the best antidote to many ailments in society. . With this in mind, he should consult with the Board of Editors to formulate strategies that can help independent media thrive. In the meantime, we also hope that business owners will refrain from using their positions to force their media to become propaganda tools, as this would seriously tarnish the reputation of not only their own media, but that of the industry. in general.

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