Published:  03:15 AM, 09 July 2019

Free media essential for democracy: UK

Free media essential for democracy: UK Robert Chatterton Dickson

British High Commissioner in Dhaka Robert Dickson on Monday said freedom of expression and the media are essential qualities of any functioning democracy.

He said, "Freedom of expression and the media are essential qualities of any functioning democracy; people must be allowed to discuss and debate issues freely, to challenge their governments, and to make informed decisions."

As Bangladesh continues its journey of reaching middle-income status it is vital to allow space for a vibrant civil society. The high commissioner was speaking at the 'DCAB Talk' at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) auditorium.

The Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) organized the program.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.Dickson spoke on bilateral issues with a focus on freedom of media as the UK and Canada are hosting a global Media Freedom Conference on July 10 and 11 in London.

The conference, he 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.

Dickson said six journalists and media activists from Bangladesh are attending this conference. He also 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.

UK is the third largest export market for Bangladesh. UK-Bangladesh bilateral trade in 2018 was £3.6 billion, with Bangladesh exporting £3 billion of goods and services to the UK and the UK exporting £627 million of goods and services to Bangladesh.

The UK is Bangladesh's second largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). In 2018, the UK's net FDI into Bangladesh was $ 373 million.Britain is committed to maintaining Bangladesh's duty-free and quota-free market access once it leaves the EU, he added.DCAB President Raheed Ejaz and General Secretary Nurul Islam Hasib also spoke.


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