Violence against freedom of expression practitioners is increasing due to the culture of impunity and a lingering judicial process. Fear and insecurity remain in the country, they said.
Panelists at a round table conference have recommended special laws for the safety of journalists and to obligate a legal system for their protection.
The round table discussion named “Impunity opposes the freedom of expression. So the state must ensure a faster judiciary procedure against all types of crimes against journalists,” was organized by International free speech organization, ARTICLE 19, held at the Daily Star Centre in Dhaka on Saturday.
The United Nations recognized ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ (IDEI) is observed on 2nd November around the world every year.
Former Chief Information Commissioner Dr. Golam Rahman, chaired the discussion.
Speaking at the opening session, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, Faruq Faisel, pointed out that violence against freedom of expression practitioners is increasing due to the culture of impunity and a lingering judicial process. Fear and insecurity remain in the country, he said.
Faruq Faisel said “ARTICLE 19 expects a society where the right to freedom of expression is ensured for everyone regardless of sex --men and women, third sex, gay, minority and majority.”
Saleem Samad, Bangladesh Representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), presenting the keynote paper, said 35 journalists have been killed between 1996 and 2018. Only 8 cases were completed through the judicial process, and 5 out of these 8 families rejected the final judgment.
He recommended formulating special laws for the safety of journalists, to obligate the legal system for their protection, appointing special prosecutors to improve prosecution of cases, and to remove decriminalizing dissent in the Digital Security Act 2018 to prevent journalists from being targeted for journalism.
The panelists at the discussion were Barrister Tania Amir, Professor Shamim Reza from Dhaka University Mass Communication and Journalism Department, Nasimun Ara Huq Minu, President of Women Journalists’ Forum, Shohel Haider Chowdhury, General Secretary of Dhaka Journalists’ Union, Mithila Farzana, the Current Affairs Editor of Ekattor TV, senior journalist Khayrujjaman Kamal, Maria Salam of Kaler Kontho, journalist Selina Sheuli, and Nowsher Roman, complainant in the Sagor-Runi killing case and the brother of victim Runi.
Barrisear Tania Amir said open minded progressive people are being targeted by extremists and they remain without justice. We need to find out whether criminals have entered the state mechanism, she said.
A combined platform is required for progressive lawyers and the defenders of freedom of expression, from where initiatives and activities can be conducted comprehensively against impunity of crimes against journalists, she said.
The General Secretary of Dhaka Reporters Union Shohel Haidar Chowdhury said the corporate culture in media disrupts mass media. Organizations that work with journalists are not performing their responsibilities, he added.
The brother and the complainant of journalist Runi, Nowsher Roman, said it has been eight years since journalist couple Sagor and Runi were killed. The date of filing a police investigation report in court has been extended 68 times, and the assigned law enforcement agency couldn’t submit the investigation report yet, which is frustrating. “Megh, the son of Sagor-Runi is 13 years old now. The state yet to inform him who are the killers of his parents,” he said.
The impunity situation from global and Bangladesh perspectives, and the activities of ARTICLE 19 in line with that were shared among the participants at the roundtable discussion.
Around 30 professionals including journalists, representatives of Human Rights Organizations and different journalists’ forums, academicians and lawyers participated in the discussion.
Chairperson Golam Rahman concluded the session calling everyone, involved in the judiciary system to work together to protect impunity. “Journalists survive by struggle. The judiciary process needs to be reformed,” he said.
Iffat Nawrin Mallik, Consultant of ARTICLE 19 presented the activities of ARTICLE 19 against impunity.
United Nations declared this day as Impunity Day in commemoration of the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on 2 November 2013.
The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2 November as the ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ in General Assembly Resolution A/RES/68/163.The Resolution urged Member States to implement definite measures countering the present culture of impunity.
ARTICLE 19, UK based human rights organization with a specific mandate and focus on the defence and promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of information worldwide founded in 1987. The organization has been working in Bangladesh since 2008.