Lawyers, former diplomats and rights activists at a dialogue yesterday stressed that media should use national and international mechanisms in reporting human rights issues and for protection from any kind of harassment by the state.
They also pointed out that pressuring the government by international mechanism and pressure groups, such as diplomats and international media, could help improve the human rights situation in the country.
Former ambassador Harun Ur Rashid, Dhaka Tribune editor Zafar Sobhan, Sayeed Ahmad of Forum Asia, Tahmina Rahman of Article 19, lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua, Nur Khan of Ain o Salish Kendra were the panelists at Saturday's dialogue.
The dialogue titled “Journalists as human rights defenders working together for the promotion and protection of human rights” was organised by rights group Ain O Salish Kendra.
Ambassador Harun ur Rashid said the media played an important role in creating awareness as well as acting as a pressure group to uphold human rights.
“Individuals are now recognised not only in the national law but also in the international laws, so when his/her rights are violated, both state and the UN can intervene to protect the individual,” Harun ur Rashid added.
Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan said the government had a tendency to act unresponsively on human rights violation until the issue was being picked up by international media or watchdogs.
“Still, the media is playing a great role here. Ultimately the international watchdogs and media mostly gather information from news published in local media,” he said, adding that mediapersons also have the duty to respect victim’s privacy and rights .
Lawyer Jyotirmoy said most of the time media is vocal in protecting human rights. “It is always politicians, bureaucrats and institutions who rarely respect human rights of individuals. I even doubt how far their understanding goes when it is about human rights.”
Sayeed Ahmad of Forum Asia observed that accountability was much more needed than creating awareness on human rights among the government institutions and law enforcement agencies such as Rapid Action Battalion, police and armed forces to ensure human rights.
Echoing Syeed, Tahmina of Article 19 said if such groups always enjoy exemption from the laws in the country, culture of impunity is hard to eliminate.