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Wednesday, April 4, 2018 10:57:05 PM
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Media should run freely and fearlessly

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05th-Apr-2018       
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday ordered the withdrawal of rules punishing journalists held to be responsible for distributing ‘fake news’, giving no reason for the change, less than 24 hours after the original announcement. The move followed an outcry by journalists and opposition politicians that the rules represented an attack on the freedom of the press and an effort by Modi's government to rein in free speech ahead of a general election due next year. On Monday, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India had said the government would cancel accreditation of journalists who peddled "fake news".
The point, however, when it comes to deterring publication and spreading of fake news; it’s the Press Council which is the right platform to deal with complaints regarding any fake news. And the Indian PM’s intervention in this regard would only empower the government trying to control the media. Most importantly, no government in any country has been given the mandate to control press freedom. Understandably, Modi’s move followed Malaysia's approval this week of a law prescribing jail terms up to six years for spreading fake news. This move in India may well be negatively influenced by Mr. Trump’s eschewing and verbal abuse of the press in America too. Other countries in Southeast Asia, including Singapore and the Philippines, are considering how to tackle ‘fake news’ as well, but human rights activists all across the globe fear tougher laws against it could be used to repress free speech.
In Bangladesh, the journalist community has already registered their protest against the new Digital Security Act. No doubt, the freedom of the press has been put to the sword by introducing the Act. We know, there is a good correlation between press freedom and the different dimensions of human development, economic growth, education, food, and health. But freedom of expression is one of the most precious rights. Though our Constitution has ensured freedom of expression for every citizen, the government has created a frightened atmosphere in the country by introducing the law.
Keeping the journalists in fear is a tool of repression. We are against any kind of repression as it is against freedom of expression. A country cannot be free without freedom of the press.

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