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New policy for ensuring media freedom: Inu

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Staff reporter

Shrugging off the criticisms, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu on Monday claimed that the National Broadcast Policy is designed neither to throttle the media nor to establish the Information Ministry’s control and authority over the news industry.

“Instead, the National Broadcast Policy-2014 has been framed to ensure the freedom of the media and reduce government’s control over it,” he told a press conference at the PID conference room.

The press conference was arranged hot on the heels of widespread criticisms of the broadcast policy by media professionals and some political parties.

Describing the National Broadcast Policy as mere guidance, Inu said, “It’s not a law. There’s no provision of punishment in the policy either. So, the allegation of stifling the media is completely baseless and imaginary.”

He claimed that the policy is aimed at helping establish good governance and ensuring human rights through bringing transparency and accountability in the broadcast media. “Its every provision is beneficial and helpful for the media.”

The minister said the Information Ministry will delegate a little duty it has over the media to the independent commission to be formed.

Turning to the provision that bans airing any news or program ridiculing the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies, he claimed that the provision does not deter the media from revealing the truth. “Rather, it has been incorporated to maintain the objectivity and ensure the accountability of the media to check moral degradation at the same time.”

Observing that there is no scope of confusion in this regard, the minister said if any official or employee of the forces violates the discipline, there is no bar to publishing it. “However, it’s not ethical to undermine the entire force for the misconduct of one bad element.”

About the formulation of a specific charter of duties and editorial policy which should not be contrary to the policy and must be approved by the commission, Inu claimed that it is in no way any interference in the editorial sovereignty. “It’s a coordinated guidance which will protect the editorial sovereignty from commercial interests and unwanted meddling.”

The minister also claimed that the National Broadcast Policy is not contradictory to the constitution which ensures the freedom of expression and freedom of media.

About the formulation of the commission, Inu said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has ordered its immediate formation and a law to implement the broadcast policy for the electronic media. “However, it’ s not possible to constitute the commission overnight as it involves a lengthy process.”

Inu also trashed the allegation that the opinions of the members of the policy formulation and participants were not incorporated properly.

On August 4, the cabinet approved the National Broadcast Policy-2014 aiming to restrict the airing of programs that satirize national ideals and objectives, undermine people, harm the unity and solidarity of Bangladesh as an independent state.

On August 7, the Information Ministry issued a gazette notification on the policy.