Sheikh Hasina's recent interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour has caught the attention of many people in Bangladesh. While much can be said about the PM's performance, both good and bad, the aspect of the interview we would like to focus on here is the issue that was brought to light regarding press access and freedom in the nation.
The interview covered the Savar tragedy from various dimensions that included circumstances (corruption, lack of enforcement, etc) that led to the incident, the government's response, the possible investment and export implications to the nation, and, of course, media freedom in the nation. We will not address the PM's response in this editorial.
What we will say is that the interviewer's treatment of her guest was, to our eyes, in poor taste. Despite what Amanpour, or anyone else for that matter, may think of the PM, Hasina is the elected leader of our current government and should be accorded the respect her office commands and entitles her to. It is hard to imagine Ms Amanpour treating a western head of government with such disrespect.
While we understand that Amanpour sought to ask the tough questions, there is no reason that she couldn’t maintain her journalistic integrity while still maintaining civility when addressing a foreign dignitary.
It is commendable that the prime minister took the initiative to address an international audience in the wake of the Savar tragedy, but unfortunate that she has not deigned to offer the same access to the news media in Bangladesh. The general public would definitely be benefitted if the press in Bangladesh were allowed to ask Hasina the questions that are on everyone's mind.
Additionally, the issue brought up about the limitations placed on the entry of foreign journalists to cover the tragedy is an issue that needs to be dealt with immediately. The PM was incorrect in her statement that there is no bar placed on foreign journalists who wish to come to Bangladesh. It is very difficult for foreign journalists to secure a visa to come here, and this is something she should not have cavalierly denied. If the nation wants to assure present or prospective investors that Bangladesh is indeed a safe bet, prohibiting the entry of foreign journalists is completely counter-intuitive.
While these problems of press freedom and access are not exclusive to the ruling Awami League, they, as the current ruling party, should take the necessary steps to address these issues.
The nation will be better off for it.