Rights activists and academics at a roundtable discussion on Sunday expressed grave concern over the misuse of the Digital Protection Act and the curtailment of press freedom and civic space in the country.
They observed that a free press was essential for the sustainable development of the country, but the media suffered from a kind of ‘self-censorship’ as the atmosphere of intimidation and intimidation perpetuated them.
Transparency International Bangladesh executive director Iftakaruzzaman said at the roundtable discussion, ‘We see a culture of shooting the messenger.
He explained that journalists were called by law enforcement agencies and questioned how they got the information or why they published the news instead of treating it as a source of strength to the government.
The United Nations Office of the Resident Coordinator organized a discussion on ‘Human Rights and the Media in Bangladesh’ to explore the relationship between human rights and the media in Bangladesh and the rights of journalists reporting on human rights.
“The media is a fundamental pillar of democracy, not only for democracy in general, but also for the protection and promotion of human rights,” said Iftegaruzzaman.
In his speech at the roundtable discussion, Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmood criticized TIB for holding a press conference on Bangladesh Awami League and Padma Bridge political corruption.
In response, Iftekaruzzaman explained that they were not criticizing the government but because of their press conference, the World Bank had conducted an investigation and given a clean chit to Bangladesh.
The Information Minister also said that Bangladesh media is enjoying freedom as the number of media houses has increased manifold during the current government.
Farooq Faisal, South Asia Director of the British Foundation, expressed his concern over Article 19, DSA, as the law has created fear among journalists.
He added that civil and political rights are also under threat due to DSA.
The information minister, however, said journalists were free to write against him or other ministers, while stressing that DSA was essential for Bangladesh to protect people’s rights.
BRAC University School of Law Senior Lecturer MD Saimum Reza Talukter explained how DSA has created confusion in society due to lack of definition of digital security law, cyber crime prevention and content control.
He said that people are relying on new media instead of traditional media.
UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Quinn Lewis moderated the discussion, while Swiss Ambassador to Bangladesh Nathalie Surd explained why the promotion and protection of journalism and human rights is essential.
Gaberi Kayen, a faculty member at Dhaka University’s Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, said the DSA was a major threat to unfettered journalism in Bangladesh.
Apart from the law, he said, self-censorship is an obstacle to achieving press freedom.
The academic added that more than 80 percent of media licensing in Bangladesh was politically motivated.
Bangladesh Press Council Chairman Justice MD Nizamul Haq Nazim insisted that the press should be controlled by journalists with a more independent bent and not by corporate groups.
Tasmima Hossain, editor of Ittefaq daily, wondered why so many TV stations were given licences.
‘Do they pay taxes or create jobs?’ She asked a question.