A Dhaka Declaration on Media Freedom was drafted during the consultation, incorporating suggestions from Bangladesh civil society and local experts
On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, in collaboration with the Canadian High Commission and the British High Commission in Dhaka, hosted a consultation on “Defending Media Freedom for Democracy and Citizen’s Rights in Bangladesh.”
The event was organized in advance of the Global Conference on Media Freedom 2020, to be hosted by Global Affairs Canada and Republic of Botswana, according to a press release.
This online consultation convened a broad group of experts, including journalists, media organizations, international organizations, head of international missions in Dhaka, UN agencies, academics, law experts, bloggers, activists, human rights defenders, women, and marginalized journalist groups, youth leaders, and civil society representatives to discuss how to address the challenges to media freedom and the role of media in a vibrant democracy.
The press release said a “Dhaka Declaration on Media Freedom” has been drafted, incorporating suggestions and recommendations from Bangladeshi civil society, media practitioners and local experts to create a common standard for free press, media protection, and citizen’s rights.
The Dhaka Declaration seeks to protect and promote freedom of expression, safety of journalists and right to information, ensure gender and social inclusion, and promote youth leadership building for claiming civic space, it added.
The outcomes of this consultation along with the finalized Dhaka Declaration will be forwarded to the Second Global Conference for Media Freedom as the voices from the global south.
The event was inaugurated with remarks from Benoit Préfontaine, Canadian high commissioner, and Robert Chatterton Dickson, British high commissioner in Bangladesh.
In the press release, Préfontaine said: “Violations of freedom of opinion and expression including attacks on and intimidation against journalists are happening in many countries. The same rights protected offline must be protected online. Informed decisions can only be made with a strong and robust media.”
Dickson said: “Journalists do vital work as part of a free media and play an essential role in supporting democracy and holding the powerful to account. This is particularly important at a time of global pandemic, when people need facts and information to keep themselves safe. We stand with journalists everywhere and their supporters, including ARTICLE 19, and will do all we can to give them the capacity to do their work in the best possible way.
“Additionally, the culture of impunity and the Digital Security Act 2018 (DSA) in Bangladesh are stifling freedom of expression and acting as barriers to the functioning of independent media and promoting citizen’s rights in the country. This was emphasized by Faruq Faisel, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh and South Asia, “ARTICLE 19 is committed to undertake a long-term advocacy campaign to promote the notion of media freedom and safety of journalists in Bangladesh,” he added.
Earl Miller, US ambassador to Bangladesh, also presented his country’s support for a free and independent media.
“Journalists and an unfettered press help us learn the truth, sometimes unpleasant and disagreeable, about our countries, our governments, and ourselves. That makes our societies better. It makes us stronger. A free press gives voice to the voiceless, exposes injustice, and holds leaders accountable,” he said.
UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, reiterated the UN Secretary General’s message on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists and said: “If we do not protect journalists our ability to remain informed and make evidence based decisions are severely hampered. When journalists cannot do their work in safety, we lose an important defence against the pandemic of misinformation and disinformation.”
Seppo, referred to media’s key role in tackling the shadow pandemic of our time, violence against women, and rape culture, by applying a survivor-centered human rights-based approach.
Espen Rikter-Svendsen, ambassador of Norway, and Winnie Estrup Petersen, ambassador of Denmark, spoke at the event while Jeremy Bruer, acting high commissioner of Australia; BM ten Tusscher, ambassador of the Netherlands; ITO Naoki, ambassador of Japan; and Alexandra Berg von Linde, ambassador of Sweden, were present at the event, among other head of missions.