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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Press freedom is a cornerstone of any democracy

A free press is not anti-state, nor is it or has ever been the enemy

Update : 03 May 2023, 02:39 PM

It goes without saying that for any nation to be taken seriously on the global stage, having press freedom is an integral component. However, it would not be wrong to state that Bangladesh is struggling to ensure a free press. In recent years in particular, the country's media landscape has faced numerous challenges.

While laws such as the Digital Security Act were first introduced, it was to regulate online content and protect national security. Yes, its vague and ambiguous language has been used to silence dissent and suppress critical reporting.

To say the consequences of the DSA have been severe for journalists in Bangladesh would be an understatement. Many have faced harassment, intimidation, and arrest for their reporting and as a result, self-censorship has needed to become increasingly common among journalists -- with too many fearing grave consequences for their reporting.

And nothing speaks of the dire state of press freedom in Bangladesh more clearly than it slipping a full 10 notches in the Press Freedom Index -- from 152nd out of 180 countries in 2021 down to 162 in 2022.

A free press is not anti-state, nor is it or has ever been the enemy. It is essential for the authorities concerned to recognize press freedom for what it is -- a cornerstone of any well-meaning and functional democracy.

We need the press to do its job, and steps must be taken to amend our draconian laws so that they do not impede the work of journalists or infringe on freedom of expression. It is also crucial to ensure that journalists are free to report on sensitive issues without fear, and that those who violate their rights are held accountable.

We speak of becoming a Smart Bangladesh by 2041, but such a nation cannot have the crumbling press freedom we see in today's Bangladesh. Only by ensuring a vibrant, free press that can hold those in power to account and promote transparency and accountability will we truly become Smart Bangladesh.

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