Former American President Thomas Jefferson once said "No government ought to be without censors: and where the press is free, no one ever will.
If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defence. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth either in religion, law, or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know, nor notice, it's sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter".
Freedom of press is one of the most important things in any country. An uninterrupted flow of information through press is essential to keep everyone informed about the latest updates at home and abroad. Unfortunately freedom of press is facing terrible hindrances in some countries.
We should remember that democracy is jeopardized when journalism comes under attacks. An assault on one journalist is equal to assailing all journalists of the world. Journalists make the best of their efforts to fight back against all odds.
At present social media is a huge source of information. In some cases gate-keeping authorities and government mechanism put certain inhibitions on the publication of reportage. These issues were highlighted in the Global Investigative Journalism Conference which was held in Hamburg, Germany from 26 to 29 September 2019. Speakers in the conference made special references to modern journalism and latest news-making trends.
The discussants in particular spotlighted on data journalism and Mojo (mobile journalism). Panama Papers, Paradise Papers, Wikileaks etcetera are instances of data journalism. It is important for the state to protect journalists from maltreatment and injustice so that reporters can work without fear.
Time Magazine named Ms. Maria Ressa of the Philippines one of the guardians of truth. While talking about the insecurity of journalists in the present world, Ms. Maria Ressa assertively said, "An attack on one is an attack on all." She is CEO and Executive Editor of Rappler who presented the keynote paper in the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2019 in Hamburg, Germany.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. It defends the rights of journalists to report news safely and without trepidations of reprisal. CPJ is headquartered in New York. CPJ works like a lighthouse for journalists. I am familiar with some of the top officials of CPJ.
There is a lack of global bonds of media agencies. However, the formation of Editors Guild Bangladesh comes with a ray of hope. I believe it will fill up the gap.
Efficient and honest journalists expose the truth to the readers. But some people are afraid of the disclosure of unpleasant truths which is how journalists' work at times runs into hurdles. Former Ugandan President Idi Amin once said, "There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech."
We know about the ultimate consequences of dictators like Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, Pakistan's Zia Ul Haq, Romania's Nicolae Ceau?escu etcetera who had an inclement approach to media.
On the other hand, some people with media background became famous in the global arena like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Michael Bloomberg of America who is going to contest in the upcoming US presidential polls.
Journalists often face impediments and intimidation from financial scammers, fraudsters, drug dealers, money launderers as a result of publishing reports on these vices. The pros and cons of Digital Security Act are being debated in Bangladesh.
BBC has reported that most of the defamation cases are filed in Bangladesh to harass journalists, editors and newspaper owners. In many cases people speak to journalists on condition of anonymity. Newspapers sometimes publish certain reports in public interest but some people take it as personal attacks. The job of journalists is to provide authentic information. Journalists are not under obligations to unfold the sources wherefrom they get facts and figures. All journalists may not be good but most of them work with integrity.
At the same time journalists in many countries have come under regimentations and torment. We have seen how Myanmar authorities persecuted two journalists of Reuters. The gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 still haunts our memory. It may be noted that there were very little protests over Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Bangladesh. Even World Press Freedom Day, which comes off on May 3, is not properly observed in Bangladesh due to lack of unity among journalists.
Eminent Indian journalist MJ Akbar resigned from the Indian Cabinet after facing allegations about sexual harassment in 2018. He came back to journalism after resignation. The Me Too movement rose all over the world through the initiatives of journalists. Heads of state of some countries had to leave their posts over trouble with journalists.
Some prizes earlier awarded to Aung San Suu Kyi have been withdrawn by different organizations following ethnic cleansing in Myanmar's Rakhine province. Even appeals have been made to Nobel Committee to revoke her Nobel Prize.
I attended Commonwealth Media Forum in 2006 as an Adviser of Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council. This program laid emphasis on giving priority to print and electronic media to function without barriers.
It's an undeniable fact that freedom of press is one of the most vital things to establish transparency, democracy, social justice and equity in any nation. Strangulating the voice of newspapers and television channels is a common feature in countries where statecraft does not properly function. Media houses and newspapers in Bangladesh have not yet become strong like those in India, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Newspapers are society's mirror. Newspapers get us familiarized with everything that happens around us in our own country as well as in the rest part of the world. Newspapers also portray the success stories of the government and thus raise the country's honor on global platforms.
The assignments journalists have to carry out as part of their occupations sometimes put their lives at risk. Many journalists face various sorts of danger during coverage of risky situations. They also sometimes get killed while doing their duties. Journalists often become enemies of corrupted people because their reports unveil the illegal things done by gangsters, racketeers, gun dealers and other lawbreakers. In this way journalists put their own lives under threat for upholding the value of truth and justice.
Sometimes autocratic governments shut down online news portals and social networks to subdue people's resentment. This often leads to mass outrage and things worsen as a result of it instead of getting better. The price of protecting the right to freedom of expression and information has become extremely high--death, detention and fear loom large for communicators and activists across the globe and the space for meaningful discussion and communication is under siege.
The rise of authoritarian governments and the threat of internet censorship has redoubled pressures on reporters globally, according to reports from different sources, which found that a further 326 journalists were imprisoned for their work during 2018, a substantial increase on the previous year.
Many journalists have left journalism and moved to other professional tracks due to monetary uncertainty. A number of newspapers are going through financial crisis. The government should take a look at this matter and required measures should be initiated to save media and journalists from monetary predicaments.
International organizations including the United Nations sometimes impose travel ban on certain leaders and heads of governments for their misconduct against journalists. A special policy for freedom of press and security of journalists made by the United Nations titled "The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity" aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers, both in conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide. Its measures include, among other undertakings, the establishment of a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to the safety of journalists as well as assisting countries to develop legislation and mechanisms favourable to freedom of expression and information, and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.
Bangladesh has meanwhile graduated from least developed countries (LDC). The countdown of Mujib Borsho has already begun. Now it is time for Bangladesh to take special steps to upgrade the quality of print and electronic media to match global standard. Journalists need higher trainings to work with better skills and professionalism.
Everyone should come forward to build up a strong media which is essential for good governance to prevail everywhere. There should be aid from the government for the sustenance of newspapers and unbarred flow of information.
Good journalists can play significant roles for uplifting people's ethical values. Journalists can make people aware of their rights and duties and can also inspire a country's citizens to become patriotic. Moreover, newspapers and television channels can work for making peace prevail throughout the world.
Academic scholars, tech entrepreneurs, journalists and civil society members should get united to ensure freedom of press and to make sure that journalists and media houses can work without getting intimidated or endangered.
Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie said "I love great journalism. I appreciate it. I love good news stories. I love great books. I love great articles. I appreciate them so much, and they've been part of my education as a woman."
The writer is a diplomat,
entrepreneur, author and Chairman of Editorial
Board of The Asian Age
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