Revoke Draconian Media Policy –HRW

Desk Report: New York based human rights orgnisation Human Rights Watch criticised National Broadcasting Policy 2014 devised by Bangladesh Government and requested that authority should revoke the draconian policy. In a statement published on September 3, the organisation saud that, the Bangladeshi government should immediately revoke a new media policy that imposes draconian restrictions on media freedo. The organisation urges the donor that should make it clear to the Bangladeshi government that limits on freedom of expression that violate international law are unacceptable.

The policy was published in the official government gazette on August 6, 2014. It contains overly broad language and imprecise definitions that appear aimed at significantly curtailing critical reporting. The policy would, for example, ban speech that is “anti-state,” “ridicules the national ideology,” and “is inconsistent with Bangladesh’s culture,” and would restrict the reporting of “anarchy, rebellion, or violence.”

Bangladesh is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is therefore required to protect and uphold the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to seek, receive, and impart information. The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, has stated that states may not prohibit criticism of institutions, and that “A free, uncensored and unhindered press or other media is essential in any society to ensure freedom of opinion and expression.”

Hasina claimed that the media policy was modelled on the BBC media policy guidelines. But the foundations underlining the BBC policy are absent from the Bangladeshi policy. Fundamental to these differences, for example, is the BBC’s commitment to independence, impartiality, free expression, and a plurality of opinions – concepts that are wholly undermined by the Bangladeshi government’s attempts to control media content.

Human Rights Watch noted that the slippery slope allowed by the media policy could have broad-ranging effects and that no media area is exempt from its reach. On September 3, 2014, the government issued a ban on English titles in local movie productions. The media policy includes a provision that instructs broadcasters “to be careful about pure Bengali pronunciation, and the contamination of Bengali language, distortion and pronunciation of Bengali to the tune of foreign languages have to be avoided.”

“The new media policy appears to be little more than an attempt to establish a state ideology and set a trap for critics,” Adams said. “It’s almost like the government is living in a bygone era when it could tell people what to think, watch, and read. The government should realize that in the digital age those days are over.”

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