Rights activists, journalists, and civil society representatives urged the government not to curb citizens’ rights to freedom of expression by controlling the internet. On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, they urged the government to create an enabling environment for free and independent journalism for the sake of democracy.
They made the call at a discussion meeting organized by VOICE at Dhaka Reporters’ Unity styled ‘Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation’. Presided my VOICE Executive Director Ahmed Swapan Mahmud the dialogue was addressed by Professor Gitiara Nasreen, Journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Saleem Samad, Khairuzzaman Kamal, rights activist and lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, S.M. Monjur Rashid of OXFAM Bangladesh, Syeda Aireen Jaman of PEN’s Bangladesh Centre among others.
Speakers urged the government to ensure the right to information to all citizens and introduce media literacy in textbooks. They said not only the laws and policies curb freedom, but also division of journalists and corporate control threatens press freedom largely.
Eminent journalists Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul identified external and internal challenges realizing the principles of freedom of the press while he emphasized rule of law and accountable system not only in the media system, also in the overall governance process. He cited examples of journalists who served professionally in a challenging situation to provide accurate information to the people while it empowers and builds democratic process stronger.
Professor Gitiara Nasreen emphasized that journalists should not compromise with influential and powerful corners for their own interest. They must speak out for the sake of upholding people’s right to know to provide truthful content at the media, she said. She also mentioned ‘disinformation’ or ‘fake news’ will be eliminated if proper measures are taken imparting media literacy and skill development for journalists.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua raised some concerns referring to media law and digital security act which sharply undermine free freedom and freedom of expression. He mentioned that this is time to reform the digital security act and create favorable condition for reporting, even during the election.
Saleem Samad said that self-censorship is increasing due to a fear of culture created by the State authority that goes against the press freedom principles.
Khairuzzaman Kamal emphasized electoral reporting drawing the experiences and said that journalists faced serious threats during electoral reporting which must be stopped immediately. He emphasized to create a fearless environment that is necessary for electoral reporting.