'Mass media employees bill: Stakeholders to be consulted'

Parliament buildingUNB file photo

The parliamentary standing committee on information and broadcast ministry will sit with different stakeholders before finalising the much debated bill titled “Mass Media Employees (Services Conditions) Bill 2022.”

Parliamentary standing committee chairman Hasanul Haq Inu said this on Wednesday after meeting of the committee in the parliament.

Information and broadcasting minister Hasan Mahmud placed the bill in parliament on 28 March.

The bill was later sent to the parliamentary standing committee on the information ministry for scrutiny and report back to the parliament within 60 days.

Inu, also president of Jatiya Samajrantrik Dal, on 6 June placed a proposal to extend the time for another 60 days which was approved in the parliament unanimously.

The parliamentary standing committee did not hold any meeting after the bill was placed in parliament.

Various journalists organisations and owners associations and Transparency International Bangladesh have strongly opposed various sections of the proposed law.

“Journalist leaders have already talked to me about the bill. But I have requested them to place their proposal before the standing committee in written. The parliamentary committee will then formally invite different journalist organisations to the committee,” Inu said.

Inu said the parliamentary standing committee would hold meetings with Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ), Newspaper Owners Association of Bangladesh (NOAB), Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) and newspaper employees association.

He also said that there may be a meeting with Dhaka Reporters' Unity.

The wages and benefits of journalists, employees and press workers, artists of broadcast, online, and print media outlets would be fixed under the proposed law.

The bill seeks to consider journalists as media professionals, not as workers.

Violation of the provisions of the bill is punishable with a fine of Tk 50,000-Tk 500,000.

The government will be empowered to cancel the licences or registration of the media. The owners of media outlets will also face punishment for violation of the law.

Currently, journalists and employees of media houses are regarded as “workers” under the labour law.

Once the law is passed, they will be regarded as media personnel, not workers.

The parliamentary standing committee also instructed the ministry to submit a detailed report on the views of stakeholders on the draft over-the-top (OTT) policy.

"The ministry did not present the OTT policy in Wednestoday's meeting. We have asked the ministry to talk to the stakeholders over the OTT policy and to submit a detailed report on their views," Inu said.

"We will review and make recommendations after the ministry submits the detailed report," Inu also said.

The meeting recommended taking initiative to ensure attendance in biometric system and deduct salary for absence in order to restore order among the officers and employees of BSS.

Information and broadcasting minister Hassan Mahmud and members Simeen Hussain (Rimi), Murad Hasan and Khandaker Mamata Hena Lovely were present.