Protect human rights and fundamental freedoms
In a historic moment on September 8, 2000 the United Nations (UN) adopted the Millennium Declaration that urged for "efforts to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law, as well as respect for all internationally recognised human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development." It also supported the "freedom of the media to perform their essential role and the right of the public to have access to information." 18 years after, what we are witnessing around the globe indicate that we are far away from achievement. The fight is still on - thanks to the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are directly related to access to information and press freedom. Countries including Bangladesh are expected to achieve these targets by 2030.
Bangladesh slid four notches in the World Press Freedom Index revealed by the Reporters Without Borders. Bangladesh secured 150th position in the World Press Freedom Index 2019 rankings, whereas Norway took the top position and Turkmenistan (180th) in the bottom. Other than Bangladesh, elsewhere in South Asia the overall situation was deadly for reporters. In Afghanistan (121st) 16 media professionals were killed, six in India (140th) and three in Pakistan (142nd) in 2018, the RSF index states. Reporters Without Borders said in the index report that the physical violence against journalists is encouraged by the fact that the perpetrators usually enjoy complete impunity. This is also mentioned that, this tragic toll was accompanied by an increase in violence coming from all quarters, including the security forces, organized crime and political activists.
According to the index report, the situation was worrying in Bangladesh, where reporters covering protests and the election were the targets of unprecedented violence. Analysing regional press freedom, the global media watchdog said Bangladeshi journalists have been among the leading collateral victims of the tough methods adopted by the ruling elites.
Right to information and press freedom are highly critical for achieving Goal 16 of the SDG, particularly the target 10 as it is directly linked with people's right to access information and safety of journalists. This, in turn, is closely linked to a culture of openness. Fortunately, even after facing resistance from several influential members including some Security Council members, this target managed to stay onboard the SDGs.
Goal 16 is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. Target 10 rightly reflects some governance challenges - ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. There is no way to deny the fact that one key element of fundamental freedoms is freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press. However, "in accordance with national legislation and international agreements" is somewhat tricky as we can never be certain that every state in the world will adopt laws and policies to ensure fundamental freedoms.