MoFA withdraws circular on journo monitoring abroad

UNB . Dhaka | Update:

Amid the growing demand from the journalist community, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has withdrawn a circular that directed Bangladesh Missions abroad to keep watch on journalists travelling abroad.

Director general, External Publicity wing at the MoFA Md Lutfor Rahman conveyed the revised decision to all heads of missions abroad.

"It has been decided to withdraw the letter under reference with immediate effect as it was not appropriately coordinated," a diplomat told UNB on Friday night quoting the official communication.

"If anybody's involvement is found against the interest and the image of the country, s/he must be identified and their negative activities must be reported back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately," MoFA conveyed it to heads of Bangladesh missions abroad on Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry requested the heads of missions abroad to take up the matter 'seriously' so that Bangladeshi journalists, whenever travelling to the respective host countries, should be monitored to unearth their activities.

Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali on Thursday said journalists will face no obstacle during their travel abroad and performing professional duties there.

He, however, said it is necessary to monitor whether anybody is doing anything while travelling abroad that goes against the country's image and interest.

The minister also said monitoring is not only for journalists but also for all citizens, and that is in the interest of the county.

Earlier, Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) on Friday urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to immediately withdraw its notice directing Bangladesh missions abroad to watch journalists travelling abroad and their activities there.

Expressing deep concern over the notice, DRU president Sakhawat Hossain Badsha and general secretary Mursalin Nomani in a statement said, "DRU thinks such a circular will hamper journalists' freedom of expression and freedom of movement which is a barrier to establishing free mass media."

They said there is a provision to take legal action in the existing laws if any journalist is found involved in any crime. "But this directive is insulting for the entire journalist community. At the same time, it has become a fear factor."

The DRU thinks there is possibility to misuse such directive which might ultimately shrink journalists' professional duties abroad.

The DRU leaders said there is no need to issue such directives as there are relevant laws and the government believes in free media.

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