IFJ calls for further consultation on new Bangladesh broadcast policy

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins the Bangladesh Manobadhikar Sangbadik Forum (BMSF), the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) and the Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) in cautiously welcoming the Bangladesh government’s initiative to introduce a new broadcast policy for the country’s media. But the IFJ and the Bangladesh unions, have also  expressed concern over some of the provisions of the National Broadcast Policy 2014 that will be potentially restrictive to media freedom in Bangladesh.

The IFJ has also joined the three unions in calling for the development of an independent broadcast commission to support further discussions with stakeholders in the revision and implementation of the policy.

Journalist unions in Bangladesh have long campaigned on the need of a broadcasting policy in Bangladesh to guide the state and private television networks; to ensure freedom of speech, the free flow of information and to encourage a strong, independent and responsible media.

A 16-member committee drafted the policy in September 2013, which was then reviewed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Information Ministry. Cabinet approved the draft on August 4, which has been met with mixed reaction from the country’s media.

In its current form, the draft calls for restrictions on the broadcast of programs said to “satire national ideals and objectives, undermine people, harm unity and solidarity of Bangladesh as an independent nation”. It also has provisions to ban any broadcast that 'demeans' the armed forces or law enforcement agencies. There are 24 private television channels and 10 FM radio stations in Bangladesh that would fall under the regulatory regime of a future policy.

In a joint statement, BFUJ President Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, Secretary General Abdul Jalil Bhuyan, DUJ President Altaf Mahmud and Secretary Quddas Afrad said: “The policy is an outcome of the BFUJ & DUJ demand in 2010 to the present government. Journalists’ communities want a free and fair broadcasting policy as TVs have been running without policy for ten years. Thus, the initiatives by government are positives sign for TV media.”

Plans are to implement the new framework gradually through a Broadcasting Commission for ‘monitoring the media reports and programs on TV to ensure accountability and protection of public interests; and prepare a guidelines for broadcasters’.

The IFJ Asia-Pacific acting director, Jane Worthington, said: “We support the work of the BFUJ, DUJ and BMSF in lobbying the government to develop guidelines and policy for media. However we are concerned the provisions in their current form may act to silence rather than support Bangladesh’s broadcast media. We strongly urge the government to take heed of the media’s concerns and open the policy up for further consultation.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950 

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

 Find the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific