Published:  12:10 AM, 13 May 2022

Violation of Press Freedom & Bangladesh Continues to Lag Behind

Violation of Press Freedom & Bangladesh Continues to Lag Behind
The media is a reflection of human civilization. The media leaves its mark on the chest of civilization by capturing the images of the events that take place in our daily life. The media is called the fourth pillar of the state.  The term 'mass' or people's participation is inextricably intertwined between the two terms 'democracy' and 'media'.  Again, a kind of parallel interaction of the media with democracy is also effective.
That is to say, just as democracy needs the media, it needs the proper practice of democracy to become the media in the literal sense. The media is considered as a mirror of a state. The media helps the state to move forward by establishing a link between the government and the people.
In any state, the media will be the charioteer of the masses. The media will expedite the solution by highlighting the issues of happiness, sorrow, joy, pain, frustration, misery, rights, inequality, etc. of helpless people.  It will also speak out against corruption, crime, injustice and the negative aspects of society.
One of the goals of the media will be to build a peaceful, moral and humane world by showing people the way to reform. Only an independent media or the independence of the media can play an effective role in achieving this goal.
But in order to find the relationship between the freedom of the media and the rights of the masses, we have to look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The proclamation was made at the UN General Assembly held in Paris, France on 10 December 1948.  Article 19 of the Declaration states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
A strong structure of the media is that the media is the talking friend of dumb people. The media pours words into the mouths of the wordless, empowers the powerless.  On the other hand, it is also a corrective medium for the criminals, the unfair and the wicked.  Therefore, independent or neutral media is a great medium for our people to speak their unspoken words.  But looking at the overall condition of the media in this country, the opposite picture is seen here. Most of the media has been set up here to maintain its power, to cover up crime and misdeeds.
Now the question is how neutral or independent this media from its position, which is known as the 'conscience of the nation'. What is the condition of the media in Bangladesh?  According to a recent report released by 'Reporters Without Borders' ( Reporters Sans Frontieres-RSF) in 2022, Bangladesh ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the world in terms of media freedom index. In previous year(2021), its position was 152th. In other words, Bangladesh has slipped 10 notches this year as compared to last year. We are lagging behind in this index day by day. Which is a great threat to the media society of our country.
According to a report by Voice of America (VOA)---the anti-corruption organization TIB, Bangladesh's human rights organization 'Ain O Salish Kendra' have expressed concern over the low level of freedom of the media in Bangladesh.
Moreover, if we look at the current global context, it is clear that the freedom of the global media is under extreme threat today.
Attacks on journalists have become so new all over the world at different times. especially now, that many are calling such harassment of journalists 'New Normal'.  Two separate reports from 'Deutsche Welle' and 'The Telegraph' described the current situation as the most risky for journalists.
Former United States President Donald Trump, a world leader and defender of democracy, has repeatedly made aggressive remarks about the media on Twitter. Two Myanmar journalists have been sentenced to seven years in prison for reporting on Rohingya torture. The most brutal and heinous incident was the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi embassy.  There have been allegations of state patronage behind the killings. Julian Assange was arrested without a trace of discussion and criticism around the world.  As a result, it has increased the anxiety among the freedom-loving people all over the world. In addition, many journalists have been killed in different countries, including Afghanistan and Syria.
In addition, three journalists have gone missing in the Chinese city of Wuhan for publishing true news, including a video of the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. No trace has been found of them yet.
In our country too, journalists and newspaper industry have been oppressed by different quarters at different times. Missing journalists, shutting down newspapers are common issues here. There are many more incidents of torture of journalists including the murder of journalists Sagar-Runi and it is happening all the time which cannot be ended.
Every year on May 3, 'World Press Freedom Day' is celebrated across the world. The main theme of this year's day is: 'Media under surveillance'.  Bangladesh is 10 steps behind the World Free Media Index this year as compared to last year.  Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released the 2022 index recently. Bangladesh has started lagging behind that index every year since 2019.
Bangladesh ranks 162nd out of 180 countries in the index. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Bangladesh ranks lowest among South Asian countries. India (150), Pakistan (157), Sri Lanka (146), Afghanistan (156), Nepal (76), Maldives (87) and Bhutan (33) are ahead of Bangladesh in the index.
The RSF has been publishing this index since 2002 on the basis of how freely the media is able to operate in different countries of the world.  These incidents highlight the fragile situation of the media in Bangladesh in the global context.  Misuse of the Digital Security Act (DSA) is at the root of Bangladesh's terrible backwardness in the index. The use of this law against freedom of expression has reached its high stage.  Moreover, in the last 50 years, no government of our country has fulfilled the responsibility that the government has to fulfill for free media. As a result, our position in free media index is declining day by day.
Moreover, in the case of the recently discussed Munia's death incident, the character of the media in this country, what they really want in the name of providing news to the people has come up in front of the people of this country.  The name of the MD of Bashundhara Group (Sayem Sobhan Anvir) came up, who was directly and indirectly involved in Munia's death. 

From the beginning of the incident, the so-called mainstream media of this country has not been able to even mention the name of the MD of Bashundhara Group.  Some media were falsely slandering Munia and her family to divert the incident.  And the media houses owned by Bashundhara Group were not saying a word or writing a word about this incident.  The media owned by the Bashundhara Group could have written on the subject strategically following by the rules of journalism if they wanted. It showed their neutrality and responsibility.  But they did not.  And those who have tried to show the character of the media in a strong way by uphold this issue to the fore cannot be said how much alone they are.

It can also be said that some people may not have written anything or may have fallen asleep.  But what some people have written about Munia is that a daily newspaper cannot write in any way.  Because working like this way does not match with journalism.  And these actions have disappointed the people greatly.

The role played by most of the media in this country in various news outlets does not match with the character of mass media. The country is being filled with a kind of media which is not working with the vow or responsibility of delivering news to the people. These newspapers are dominated by covering up their misdeeds, self-censorship, attacking and counter-attacking to defeat their opponents. The predominance of such a character has been noticed in multiple incidents in recent times. The people of this country have been witnessing these incidents one after another.

And for this reason, the distrust of the people of this country towards the media is increasing day by day.  In the recent death incident of Munia, the people of this country have been extremely disappointed by the abandonment of their policies and ethics to the money and power of the media. Which is an omen for the media of this country.  And if it continues like this, in a very short time, the confidence of the people of this country towards the media will completely destroyed. The media industry will have tragic consequences.

The media is the foundation of a nation. Its neutrality, freedom of expression is needed to keep the foundation strong.  Journalism is a great profession.  And this great profession will become great only when a journalist has the ability to speak the truth and presenting the right picture by avoiding yellow journalism. The main feature of mass media and journalists is policy and ethics.  The media and journalists must always be steadfast in their questions of policy and ethics.

We hope that the media will succeed in fulfilling the real purpose of the media by upholding the true incident and true image of the individual, society, state and above all interests of individuals and groups irrespective of party, religion and caste. The government has to ensure the overall safety of the journalists.

Needless to say, the media is an integral part of a state's peace, justice, sustainable development and protection of human rights. Balanced development of a society or state is never possible without freedom of the media, impartiality and objective reporting. Therefore, everyone must work together to ensure freedom, neutrality and objectivity of the media. Let the media be free of brokers, flatterers, slaves, greedy and spineless editors-- this is the expectation.

Emran Emon is a researcher, journalist and columnist.

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