British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Chatterton Dickson on Monday said freedom of expression and the media are essential qualities of any functioning democracy.
“As Bangladesh continues its journey of reaching middle income status it is so vital to allow space for a vibrant civil society, through which the people – and especially young people – can channel their energies, and indeed their frustrations, within the law,” he said.
The British envoy made the remarks at DCAB Talk organized by the Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at the auditorium of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) in the city.
DCAB President Raheed Ejaz and General Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib also spoke.
The High Commissioner said people must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely, to challenge their governments, and to make informed decisions.
He mentioned that a free media is vital to creating an active, informed, creative and engaged population.
“It is an enabling factor for a range of objectives, including good governance, democracy, gender and other equalities, and poverty reduction,” Dickson added.
The diplomat said the UK is committed to media freedom and the protection of journalists across the world and will be co-hosting the ‘Global Conference for Media Freedom in 2019.’
The conference will be the first of its kind and will take place on July 10 to 11 in London.
The conference, the High Commissioner said, will look at four areas - national frameworks and legislation, protection and prosecution including impunity, building trust in the media and countering disinformation; and media sustainability.
High Commissioner Dickson said six journalists and media activists from Bangladesh are attending this conference.
The Bangladesh High Commissioner in London will also be attending.
Dickson said the conference will shine a spotlight on media repression, and build a coalition of governments committed to a stronger diplomatic response when media freedom is curtailed.
“Our co-host Canada is developing a pledge, which we hope participants will sign up to so that they can protect journalists and defend media freedom in their countries,” he said.
The High Commissioner said, “In the end we all face a choice. Ignore the threats and we tolerate the stifling of independent voices and the dangers of unaccountable power. But defend our values and nations will flourish from the free exchange of ideas.”
He said delegates will pledged to do what it takes - and no less - to ensure that instead of being silenced, the plural and varied voices of a free media are nurtured and encouraged as the most important contribution to the open societies that are the foundation of human progress.
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