Directive to national newspapers and TV channels to re-register respective online portals an example of blueprint for ultimate control of the media; TIB expresses grave concern about people’s right to free flow of information and freedom of opinion
Dhaka, 01 September 2020. Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has expressed grave concern over the government directive to separately register all online portals of the country particularly those of the long serving national newspapers and TV channels. Commenting that this directive, at a time when the National Broadcast Commission and online regulations are yet to be finalized, will establish total control and intervention of the government over the media as it also marks yet another suicidal step towards completing the efforts of a section of the government to control the media.
In a statement issued to the media today, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said, “it has been reported in the the media that even the newspapers and TV channels that have been in operation for many years have been asked to seek re-registration of their online portals. Although it is being explained by the Information Ministry to be part of an attempt to provide the media the advantages of being registered with the government and as an attempt to control yellow journalism, this will in reality only establish total control of the government over the media in the country. Question will arise if despite the presence of laws and regulations relevant to the media this new directive is intended to serve the interest of the media or in fact it comes as a tool in the hands of the government to increase pressures on the media and thereby to ensure vested quarters to remain above criticism and accountability. While the government is expected to do everything possible to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of information and opinion, we witness the government is ironically establishing further control over exercise of such rights. It is absolutely inexplicable that while from the highest authority of the government pledges are being regularly made to ensure transparency and accountability, those who are supposed implement such pledges are desperate to create all possible barriers against independent and courageous journalism that could expose corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement.”
The Executive Director said, “it is disappointing that the government has ignored the media stakeholders and experts’ views that the long serving newspapers and TV channels are by their very right and legal existence already entitled to keep their online portals active. The imposition of the decision without setting up the Broadcast Commission and finalizing the online media regulations is bound to be a big threat to free media. On the other hand, the failure to entrust the proposed commission with authority to implement recommendations poses the risk of making it yet another toothless tiger. TIB therefore calls upon the government to directly engage with all stakeholders for views and opinions instead of rushing to decisions on a subject of such highly sensitive and nationally importance.
Referring the importance of free and uncontrolled prevalence of online news media for meeting the Government’s high profile electoral commitment of Digital Bangladesh, Dr Zaman further said, “control if you can the promotion of personal interests by vested quarters, but do ensure free online media at the same time. Please don’t further undermine the freedom of media pledged as part of national independence. Failure to ensure free media in Bangladesh will convert pledges like “free flow of information”, freedom of expression, and ‘Digital Bangladesh’ as only rhetoric's.”
TIB earnestly expects that the government will abandon this new directive of re-registration of online portals of long-running newspapers and TV channels, and rather would ensure free media in the country by a set of positive initiatives for the media including scrapping of the regressive provisions of the Digital Security Act. It is also the responsibility of the Government to control fake new sources and yellow journalism in the due legal process, but nothing justifies any restriction on the independent media, the statement said.
Director (Outreach and Communication)