Alleging that formation of the ‘National Broadcast Policy 2014’ is an effort to control the media, editors, journalist leaders and eminent citizens in the capital on Saturday rejected the policy saying that it will infringe the freedom of speech.
"The broadcast policy has already faced widespread criticisms…we reject this policy," said Editors’ Council president and daily Samakal editor Golam Sarwar while wrapping up a discussion on the policy, titled 'Challenges before the mass media', at CIRDAP auditorium.
Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam, also the general secretary of the Editors’ Council, an organisation of the editors of the country's leading dailies, presented the keynote paper on the much-talked-about issue.
The speakers said the formation of the policy was part of an effort to control the media which will ultimately affect the freedom of speech and democracy.
They suggested formation of an independent commission on media with a revered person as its head accommodating senior journalists as members who would prepare a fresh media policy, if it is really needed for the media.
Dr Serajul Islam Choudhury, former minister and eminent lawyer Barrister M Amir-Ul Islam, Dhaka University's journalism department's teacher Prof Dr Golam Rahman, News Today editor Reazuddin Ahmed, Transparency International, Bangladesh’s executive director Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists’ (BFUJ) president Shawkat Mahmud, president of another faction of BFUJ and Boishakhi TV channel’s CEO Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul , and Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) secretary general and Channel i director Shykh Siraj were, among others, addressed the seminar.
In his keynote paper, Mahfuz Anam said free media is one of the important achievements of Bangladesh after the reestablishment of democracy in 1991. This media has been in existence in a free, responsible and competitive healthy environment, he said.
"But, many of the clauses of the broadcast policy have indications to restrict the freedom of media," the Daily Star editor said, adding that the dangerous part of the policy is that it prohibits the publication of any kind of information over army, public or private sector on the pretext of harming the security of the State.
"But who will define which is anti-state or harmful to state security?" Mahfuz Anam questioned saying if such restriction had been there, the reports on the 10-truck arms haul would not have come out as many officials of the intelligence agencies were involved in it.
He said the broadcast policy will hit the media hard affecting its creativeness and operation while the local private satellite TV channels will lose the competitiveness to foreign ones.
Strongly criticising the move to 'control' the editorial policy of newspapers, Mazfuz Anam said if the policy comes into effect, there will be no need for an editor of The Daily Star, as only a 'clerk will be enough to run it'.
Dr Serajul Islam Choudhury said the conflict between the media and the state is a historic matter. "Even, Poet Rabindranath Tegore had to protest the British move 120 years ago to restrict the freedom of press and freedom of speech."
Barrister Amir-Ul Islam said those advised the government to introduce the Broadcast Policy have in fact embarrassed it which is a big damage to it. "The government should find them out," he said adding that the policy has introduced some ridiculous things as they claimed that it will ensure the accountability of media and development as well.
Prof Golam Rahman said the government is trying to impose the policy from outside taking advantage of the weakness of the news media.
Terming fearsome the broadcast policy, Reazuddin Ahmed said it has been made to control the media in the name of a policy.
Dr Iftekharuzzaman said citizens apprehend about curbing their rights following the announcement of the broadcast policy. "If the policy is enforced, I won’t be able to speak freely, while the media won't be allowed to cover my speech. That’s our main concern," he added.
Shawkat Mahmud said the media has been running in the country in a good manner without any policy. "The government has framed the policy to avoid any criticism against it."
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul said the journalists had wanted a policy ensuring their protection regarding their wage and investment of the media owners and that is why they made many suggestions. "But, many unwanted matters have been incorporated in the policy which the journalists did not want," he said.