Though there were no reports of killings of journalists, series of threats, coercion, intimidation and aggression on them in the last year have become all too common, revealed a report at a programme in the city yesterday.
The report titled ‘Security of journalists and restrictions on collecting information in journalism 2008’ was launched at the National Press Club in observance of World Press Freedom Day.
It mentioned that environment for journalists of the news media remains risky and hostile.
Media research organisation Mass-line Media Centre (MMC) and international human rights organisation ARTICLE 19 jointly published the report at the programme ‘Article 19 Book Launch and Grassroots Women Journalists Awards 2009’.
Presenting the key findings of the report, MMC Executive Director Kamrul Hasan Monju said, “People do not realise that journalists across the country are involved in bringing to light the truth risking their lives.”
The study based on interviews of journalists in six divisions and newspaper reports showed that 166 journalists were abused, 26 faced lawsuits and 21 were injured while they were on duty, another 82 faced security threats, 40 were subjected to physical aggression, 32 faced death threats and 11 journalists were sent to prison during the period from January to December 2008.
The journalists fell prey to people with political muscle or back-up, power brokers, law enforcers, religious groups and extremists, terrorists, teachers and even national-level sportsperson, it said.
Head of News of ATN Bangla Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul said, “The mental torture the journalists had to face during the state of emergency was beyond description. While the report conveys some rather unsettling and nearly accurate results, it is only a part of the whole picture.”
A book titled ‘Proshnottore Tathya Adhikar Ain’, an east to read commentary on the recently passed Right to Information (RTI) Act 2009, published by ARTICLE 19 was also launched at the function.
State Minister for Law Qamrul Islam as the chief guest inaugurated the book featuring the RTI act in the simplified question and answer format for the convenience of general readers.
“The right to information is everybody’s right. But a lot of people do not even know that there is such a law,” the state minister said, adding, “The book is an informative publication which will give the general people a clearer and broader idea on their right to information.”
“The RTI act like other laws is written in very formal way using a glossary of legal terms that the general people may not comprehend. This book will remove that problem to some extent,” said Prof Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University.
To mark the day, Article 19, the global campaign for free expression, a total of 12 promising female journalists from grassroots level were awarded a special fellowship for outstanding performance in journalists.
Presiding over the programme, noted human rights activist Dr Hameeda Hossain said, “Journalism is undoubtedly a very risky and perilous profession, especially for women. Things are even worse for the female journalists working in the remote areas as they enjoy little exposure or support in exchange for putting their lives at risk every day.”
She handed out the fellowship certificates and crests to the awardees.
“They deserve a lot of support simply for picking such a dangerous profession and this fellowship us certainly a positive step in that regard,” she added.
Dr Akram Hossain MP and Country Director of ARTICLE 19 Bangladesh champed Tahmina Rahman also spoke at the programme.
Meanwhile, the speakers at separate discussions said free flow of information is the precondition for development. Access to information facilitates the movement of rural people to realise their rights.
They also said free flow of information also promotes empowerment and compels policy-makers to be accountable to general people.
The speakers said this while addressing separate discussions at five districts organised by Campaign for Good Governance to mark the World Press Freedom Day yesterday, says a press release.
Colourful processions, human chains and cultural programmes were also held in the districts — Satkhira, Pabna, Bogra, Jhenaidah and Comilla.
Speakers also said freedom of press is yet to be established in many countries like Bangladesh.
Terming such repression violations of human rights, they said these activities create a bar to free flow of information and institutionalise democracy as well as establish good governance.