ARTICLE 19 concerned over safety of journalists and media freedom in Bangladesh

The human rights organization has expressed concern over the misuse of the Digital Security Act (DSA) just prior to the upcoming next national election

The UK-based human rights organization ARTICLE 19 has expressed concern over the decline of press freedom in Bangladesh, saying that the safety of journalists and media freedom is at high risk.

ARTICLE 19 raised its highest concern on the deteriorating position of Bangladesh in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), according to a statement.

Bangladesh ranked 162nd out of 180 countries, the lowest among its neighbours except for Myanmar. 

“ARTICLE 19 believes that the situation in Bangladesh is one of the worst examples of this theme at this point,” says Faruq Faisel, regional director, ARTICLE 19 South Asia.

“ARTICLE 19 is also concerned about the significant decline of Bangladesh in the Global Media Freedom index.  Bangladesh slipped 10 notches on this index, which is embarrassing for the country,” he added.

He said: “We are worried about the misuse of the Digital Security Act (DSA) as well as the government's new plan on formulating new regulations to control social media and the internet just prior to the upcoming next national election. It seems like the government is trying to follow the same path when DSA 2018 was imposed just before the 2018 national election.”

He added that “a blanket rejection of the index or any other human rights-related statement, steps and reports from the international community by the minister concerned is not the solution. It is rather the government’s responsibility to carefully review the issues raised by the index and, if necessary, take appropriate steps to improve the situation.”

He drew the attention of the government, policymakers, and the executive bodies to “ this alarming decline with high priority and also we do remind the government of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom.”

Meanwhile, Barrister Sara Hossain said: “The absence of regulatory guidelines in newsrooms is a challenge”.

She added that when newsrooms are devoid of regulatory frameworks like “sexual harassment policies,” a culture of impunity festers. Thus, “legal aid is a necessity” and journalists cannot “only depend on pro bono legal assistance.”

Legal aid must be a compulsory benefit in newsrooms, she said.

World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) is observed worldwide every year to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the line of duty.