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11th-Aug-2014

If not law then Information Minister will have no power to decide

By Editorial Desk

The government policy on electronic media has raised public criticism in all sections. The journalists, though are divided between pro-government and pro-opposition factions, yet both factions find it difficult not to oppose the policy as being unwanted restrictions on the press freedom. We have also to say that some journalists have not forgotten how they helped to destroy press freedom altogether for the formation of one-party rule and are still trying hard to defend it in some way.  Broadcasting Policy usually refers to a framework for setting out rules and guiding principles facilitating the people's right to know. Mr. Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury is facing an awkward responsibility of defending the un-defendable. He is putting a brave face to emphasise that it is a reward in response to the demand of journalists and other media people to have a broadcasting policy. What he knowingly forgot is that the media people want a press policy to avoid government's interference with the press freedom. The whole purpose is to restrict government's arbitrary action and not to curtail the press freedom. The guidelines are provided to highlight the ethics of journalism and public purpose of journalism. Surely any journalist worth his name will not invite government's help to restrict press freedom.       The government gazetted the much talked about 'National Broadcasting Policy 2014' on Thursday, three days after it got the Cabinet nod, which allows the government the right to intervene in the content of news, talk shows and political advertisement aired on television and radio. The Prime Minister's Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury is claiming that the guidelines though published in a gazette notification these have not become law or have the force of law. If that is his interpretation he should make sure that Information Minister will not claim power as per the guidelines.When the government fails to discharge its basic duty-that of providing safety and security of life, safe food, medicine, water and transport to the citizens-it is trying to throttle the media in the name of teaching the editors and journalists what they should do and what they should not do in respect of law enforcing agencies and armed forces. It should matter that these forces are of the people and for the people. By undermining their position, the nation cannot have safe and orderly existence. They are not just government forces to be abused for power politics. Broadcasting Policy will be of no help to the government because no government can correct its mistakes without freedom of the press. This policy by which it has been asked that press must not publish anything not truthful is absurd. This is for the simple reason that in public affairs truth has to be forced out. Such a restriction will make the corrupt ones most happy. Nothing can be published against their corruption before truth is established through a court of law.   If this policy was already in place then we could not have information about the ten trucks arms haul, August 21 attempted assassination of the present PM, and the recent 7 murders in Narayanganj, where law enforcers and intelligence agencies were found involved. The policy restrains to broadcast stories regarding deaths in police custody or torture, abuse of power by military, RAB, DGFI, intelligence agencies and government officials. According to this policy we cannot cover unrest or show footage of violence. It appears that this policy expects the TV stations to broadcast song and dance episodes while miscreants uproot railway lines and burn our factories. Such policy cannot be helpful for the discipline in law enforcing agencies either.Broadcasting anything that may hamper friendly relations with foreign countries is to be withheld, according to the policy. It will suspend news coverage of incidents like - Felany killing, BSF's border killing, or the expatriates' plights in different countries.Under the cover of media policy, what we have is the government for curtailing press freedom in the interest of consolidating power as unelected government. The press is not above law and it is against special law specially restricting the press freedom. Please do not humiliate the journalists by claiming that the broadcasting policy is not a black law but something demanded by the journalists themselves.