August 21, 2014: A roundtable organized by SHUJAN-Citizens for Good Governance, a civic group, rejected the national broadcast policy approved by the cabinet on August 4, 2014 describing it as the government’s first step to form an authoritarian state. Political analysts and civil society members warned that the National Broadcast Policy would ultimately lead to autocracy and violence in the country. It is part of the government’s political blueprint to suppress people’s voice and cling to power for a longer period, they said, urging an immediate review of the policy for the interest of democracy, good governance, and human rights.
Discussants at the roundtable held at the Jatiya Press Club on Thursday observed that the policy would not help develop strong media in the country. Rather, they said, it would empower the government to impose restrictions on broadcasters, which focus on the anomalies of government and suggest corrective notions.
They urged the citizens to stop the government from implementing such a draconian policy or law. They said that the broadcast policy would also give indemnity to both military and civil bureaucrats of their wrong doings.
SHUJAN Secretary Dr. Badiul Alam Majumdar said that the coverage of the 5th January one-sided vote and law enforcers’ involvement in the seven murders in Narayanganj had created the pretext for passing the broadcast policy.
Muhammad Jahangir, a national committee member of SHUJAN, presented the keynote paper at the roundtable chaired by former adviser to the caretaker government M Hafizuddin Khan, also the president of the civic group.
In his keynote paper, he said that the national broadcast policy is indeed a political blueprint of the ruling party for forming an authoritarian state as was done through Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League in 1975.
If the policy is implemented, there will be no freedom of speech while supporters and sycophants of the ruling party would dominate politics, reads the paper. Jahangir suggested not considering the policy as a baseline while framing the broadcasting law as many sections of the policy are faulty and incomplete. He suggested review of the policy considering the criticisms it created among the citizens.
He also suggested formation of a media council, with Bangladesh Press Council merged into it, to bring all print and electronic media under one umbrella.
“If we allow the policy, bureaucracy will be able to evade accountability. If torture by police or RAB is not published in newspapers, can you think what will happen?” said Dr. Dilara Chowdhury, former professor Dept. of government and politics at Jahangirnagar University.
She alluded to a provision, which imposes restriction on broadcasts “demeaning” the armed forces, law enforcement agencies, and government officials. “Police in general have a negative attitude towards the women, raped or tortured. Where will these victims go, if media don’t publicize such negligence of police?”
The professor said amid the absence of an active opposition in parliament, there were a few civil society groups and media critical of government’s wrongdoings. But, without a free media, civil society cannot talk, she said.
“The loss of press freedom means suppression and repression. Its result is nothing but violence,” said Dilara, also trustee of BRAC University.
Prof. Abu Sayeed, former information minister from the Awami League said, “The policy and the way power is being used in Bangladesh suggest that the country is heading towards authoritarianism”. “Businessmen and politicians have gripped the state today, and media must publicize their irregularities. Sixty to seventy percent of MPs are businessmen now,” he said.
Columnist Syed Abul Maksud said that the policy would gradually strengthen the government’s grip on media.
Media and democracy will be threatened if it is enforced, said SHUJAN President M Hafizuddin Khan.
Dr. Golam Rahman, a journalism professor at Dhaka University, and Nayeemul Islam Khan, Editor of the Amader Orthonity, also spoke on the Occasion.