Journalists, rights activists, and civil society representatives urged the government to take effective steps to ensure freedom of the press.
Speaking at a webinar, the distinguished speakers called for the unconditional elimination of all limitations on the media and enable a free press environment.
In observance of the World Press Freedom Day, the webinar titled `Information as a public good’ was jointly organised by six civil society organisations VOICE, Article 19, Internews, Forum for Freedom of Expression, Bangladesh (FExB), Pen International-Bangladesh and Reporters San Frontiers (RSF) on Monday.
The webinar was moderated by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE and chaired by Faruq Faisel, South Asia and Bangladesh regional director of Article 19.
Prominent journalist Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, editor-in-chief of TV Today, Dr Aireen Zaman, secretary general of Pen International-Bangladesh Chapter, Shameem Ara Sheuli, programme manager, Internews and Saimum Reza Piash, senior lecturer, BRAC University spoke at the webinar as distinguished panelists.
Abtab Khan Shawon, programme officer of VOICE presented the keynote in the meeting.
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul said that despite the livelihood uncertainties, professional hurdles, problems, and challenges, journalists perform their duties.
He mentioned that though government claims existence of free media, but in reality, no effective steps has been taken by the government to ensure the livelihood security of the journalists and for the freedom of media in general.
He also emphasised reforming legal provisions to protect the journalists’ rights and freedom of the press.
Faruq Faisal told that the government must uphold the spirit of constitutional obligations and should stop misinformation with proportionate measures.
He also urged civil society organisations to come together and fight for the cause of establishing free, fair and enabling environment for the press and free expression.
Shameem Ara Sheuli said that women in this profession have overcome many obstacles ranging from gender inequality in recruitment to promotion, unfavourable working environment, and sexual harassment.
She also focused on to move the media outlets to new business models using digital platform to ensure the job security of the journalists.
She expressed her concern that most of the media outlet owned to serve their other business interest in Bangladesh that uproot media as an independent business and thus creates job uncertainly for the journalists.
She expressed frustration over job cuts and lay-offs in the media due to coronavirus outbreak.
She also requested the media outlet owners to look into the matter from a human point of view during the pandemic.
Saimum Reza Piash said that Covid-19 has put a halt on almost everything but cases lodged under the Digital Security Act saw a manifold increase recently against people voicing any criticism, particularly people raising their voice against the corruption and mismanagement in the health sector.
Moreover, he also expressed his particular concern that there is no specific law in Bangladesh that deal to protect the journalists’ rights and urged to speak over the issue more.
Speakers also said that journalists on the field are particularly exposed to the coronavirus and expressed concern for not taking adequate protective measures by the media organisations to protect their workers from the exposure of coronavirus.
They added that free press and access to information are the basics for journalism and government should immediately enact separate laws that will protect the rights, livelihood security etc of the journalists so that they could perform their professional duties without any pressures and hurdles.
Among others, Tushar Roy, Noor Hasan Manik, Serajuddahar Khan and Masud Khan spoke at the occasion.
The World Press Freedom Day is being observed in Bangladesh and elsewhere in the world on third May every year to acknowledge the struggles faced by the people in the media and is a reminder to governments to respect press freedom.
This year amid the coronavirus pandemic the day is observed across the globe on the theme “Information as a Public Good.”