Draft Broadcast Policy- Media in Vulnerable State in Bangladesh
Freedom of Press and media is a fundamental rights to peoples’ liberty. Where media is not free, people cannot.
Draft broadcast policy- Media in vulnerable state in Bangladesh
Md. Rezaul Karim, Assistant Professor, Southern University Bangladesh
The world is moving towards openness and transparency, and opacity is being decried by all quarters- the unfettered right of the people to know. At such a time Bangladesh government has drafted a retrogressive, backward looking, outmoded and archaic national broadcasting policy that if pursued would put our clock of progress back by decades, if not more. We will dwell on some of the proposals. For example, the proposed policy seeks to put public figures and political personalities beyond criticism. Not only should public figures be open to strict scrutiny, it is the duty of the media also to assess their performance and expose their shortcomings. We feel that national ideology, national interest and indeed national security are matters that do not lend themselves to subjective interpretations of any particular authority. These are axiomatic and normative values recognized by all. Is it for the government to arrogate to itself the task of defining what our national interest is, or for that matter can issues of national security be confined to the interpretations of those that deal with it directly? And are the government and its agencies the sole guardian of our national security? It may so happen that the government may evolve policies that might impinge, unwittingly, on national interest. And media criticism, reflecting public opinion, helps the government to recast policies that serves national interest better. The proposed fiat seeks to put a cap on the broadcast media to air programmes that might harm our relationship with a friendly country. What does the government mean by it? We cannot air programmes that are critical of US policies even when it attacks other countries, or hold talk shows on Shia-Sunni killing in Pakistan or communal riots in India, or mistreatment of Muslims in UK, or human rights violations in Thailand!
Such policies are the last resort of a government that wants to hide its underperformance by stifling criticisms and dissent, which cannot work. These ideas are anathema to the Constitution, in spite of what some may claim, and abhorrent to democratic principles. The government must abjure this disastrous idea. The draft broadcasting policy formulated by the government would be retrogressive and counter-productive; pressure of various sorts being put on the media is a reflection of abrasive behavior on the part of the powers that be as well as their supporters. Lately journalists were unceremoniously and humiliatingly made to leave a meeting to which they had been invited by Minister of Communications. Bizarrely, it was Minister for Shipping and Minister of State for Home who rudely asked the media people to leave. That begs the question: since he had asked the media people to be present, why did the communications minister stay silent when the journalists were shown the door? Moreover, a television journalist’s car was vandalized moments after he had spoken firmly on the need to take measures against road accidents.
These instances, together with the fact that all too often journalists are frequently taken to task over reports of corruption, are a sad sign of what could come to pass if attitudes do not change not only among the powers that be but also among those engaged in the pursuit of politics and in the administration. Outside the capital, there are recurring reports of how media people at the local level are often made the target of wrath by elements unhappy with reports of corruption and other forms of questionable behavior. As if to add to their discomfort, journalists often face harassment through cases being filed by individuals and the resultant vigor with which the law enforcers pursue such cases. In other words, intimidation is often a weapon applied to silence media people serious about their professionalism. It is no exaggeration to say that journalists are becoming an endangered species in the country today. The sooner sanity is restored, the sooner the realization dawns that media freedom must not be undermined, the better will democracy be served.