Breaking News

Digital security laws and culture of impunity are undermining freedom of expression in Bangladesh

Eastern times, Special Correspondent, Dhaka, 4 November: On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission and the British High Commission in Dhaka, hosted a consultation on “Defending Media Freedom for Democracy and Citizen’s Rights in Bangladesh”.

This event was organized in advance of the Global Conference on Media Freedom 2020 to be hosted by Global Affairs Canada and Republic of Botswana.

This online consultation convened a broad group of experts, including journalists, media organizations, international organizations, head of international missions in Dhaka, UN agencies, academics, law experts, bloggers, activists, human rights defenders, women, and marginalized journalist groups, youth leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss how to address the challenges to media freedom and the role of media in a vibrant democracy.

Globally and in Bangladesh there has been a declining trend of press freedom, journalists’ safety, and citizen’s rights of freedom of expression and right to information. In recognition of these challenges and a need to address these issues, ARTICLE 19 along with the relevant stakeholders, arranged this consultation as an opportunity to take stock of the status of media freedom, the safety of journalists, and citizen’s rights in Bangladesh. A “Dhaka Declaration on Media Freedom” has been drafted incorporating suggestions and recommendations from Bangladeshi civil society, media practitioners and local experts to create a common standard for free press, media protection, and citizen’s rights. The Dhaka Declaration seeks to protect and promote freedom of expression, safety of journalists and right to information, ensure gender and social inclusion, and promote youth leadership building for claiming civic space.

The outcomes of this consultation along with The finalized Dhaka Declaration will be forwarded to the Second Global Conference for Media Freedom 202 as the voices from the global south.

The event was inaugurated with remarks from H.E. Mr. Benoit Préfontaine, Canadian High Commissioner, and H.E. Mr. Robert Chatterton Dickson, British High Commissioner in Bangladesh.

H.E. Mr. Préfontaine highlighted that, “Violations of freedom of opinion and expression including attacks on and intimidation against journalists are happening in many countries. The same rights protected offline must be protected online. Informed decisions can only be made with a strong and robust media.”

H.E. Mr. Dickson stated, “Journalists do vital work as part of a free media and play an essential role in supporting democracy and holding the powerful to account. This is particularly important at a time of global pandemic, when people need facts and information to keep themselves safe.

We stand with journalists everywhere and their supporters, including ARTICLE 19, and will do all we can to give them the capacity to do their work in the best possible way.”

Additionally, the culture of impunity and the Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) in Bangladesh are stifling freedom of expression and acting as barriers to the functioning of independent media and promoting citizen’s rights in the country.

This was emphasized by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, “ARTICLE 19 is committed to undertake a long-term advocacy campaign to promote the notion of media freedom and safety of journalists in Bangladesh.”

H.E Mr. Earl Miller, Ambassador of the United States of America to Bangladesh also presented his country’s support for a free and independent media, “Journalists and an unfettered press help us learn the truth, sometimes unpleasant and disagreeable, about our countries, our governments, and ourselves. That makes our societies better.

It makes us stronger. A free press gives voice to the voiceless, exposes injustice, and holds leaders accountable.”

The UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, reiterated the UN Secretary General’s message on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, “If we do not  protect journalists our ability to remain informed and make evidence based decisions are severely hampered.

 

When journalists cannot do their work in safety, we lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation.”

Ms. Seppo, referred to media’s key role in tackling the shadow pandemic of our time, violence against women, and rape culture, by applying a survivor-centered human rights-based approach, “Media can create and broaden awareness of the causes of rape and violence against women and the need to address these at the individual, social, cultural, political and institutional levels.

It is important that we avoid sensationalist reporting that focuses on a small part of the problem. This reduces a serious and deep-rooted societal issue and feeds a perception that rape can be solved with quick fixes.”

H.E. Mr Espen Rikter-Svendsen, Ambassador of Norway and H.E. Ms. Winnie Estrup Petersen Ambassador of Denmark spoke at the event while H.E. Mr. Jeremy Bruer, acting High Commissioner of Australia; H.E. Ms. B.M. ten Tusscher, Ambassador of the Netherlands; H.E. Mr. ITO Naoki, Ambassador of Japan; H.E. Ms. Alexandra Berg von Linde, Ambassador of Sweden were present at the event among other head of missions.

Media freedom is the cornerstone of democracy and essential to the protection of human rights and ensuring accountability. Media plays a role in countering disinformation and the challenges to media freedom are global and have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Bangladesh.

Thus, at a time when free-flow of information is crucial and access to life-saving information is pertinent, a stronger commitment is required in ensuring free media, protection of journalists, and ensuring equality in accordance with human rights principles.

Media freedom is the cornerstone of democracy and essential to the protection of human rights and ensuring accountability. Media plays a role in countering disinformation and the challenges to media freedom are global and have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in Bangladesh.

Thus, at a time when free-flow of information is crucial and access to life-saving information is pertinent, a stronger commitment is required in ensuring free media, protection of journalists, and ensuring equality in accordance with human rights principles.

Vinkmag ad

easterntimes

Read Previous

With state elections in mind, Amit Shah on 2-day West Bengal tour

Read Next

I&B ministry sets up panel to review guidelines on TV ratings

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *