Directive to restrict use of ‘Indigenous’ unconstitutional

Prothom Alo illustration

The information ministry’s circular restricting the use of the word ‘Indigenous’ in the media is unconstitutional and tantamount to contempt of the court, said 49 eminent citizens of the country in a joint statement on Saturday.

“The Information Ministry has sent a circular to all the television channel owners saying that they will have to broadcast the restriction on using the word ‘Indigenous’ to prevent those who’ll take part in programs commemorating the International Day of The World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August from using the word. We find the restriction self-contradictory as the government, which has imposed the restriction had used the word ‘Indigenous’ more than once in its election manifesto in 2008,” read the statement.

The statement added that in the country’s constitution, it has been stated that if any question arises over any subject mentioned in the constitution, it’s the Supreme Court which has the only jurisdiction to provide explanation on that issue, not any other institution. The Supreme Court itself had said in one of its verdicts that there is no constitutional bindings against using the word ‘Indigenous’, which goes against the restriction put out by the Information Ministry.

“The ILO convention 107 was signed by Father of The Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman-led government in 1972, where the word ‘Indigenous’ was not only used but the rights of all the indigenous people of the country were also recognised. In 2009, prime minister Sheikh Hasina had also emphasised on protecting the rights and dignity of the indigenous people in a speech,” adds the statement.

The statement also says that the restriction by the Information Ministry also denied section 39 of the country’s constitution, which ensures the right to speech and the right of media.

“We strongly condemn the restriction by the Information Ministry. We urge the concerned authorities to refrain from issuing such misleading directives that disrespect the eminent citizens, journalists and intellectuals of the country. We demand for the removal of the circular immediately,” the statement concluded.

Sultana Kamal, a well-known rights activist, Khushi Kabir, Coordinator of Nijera Kori, Zafrullah Chowdhury, Trustee of Gonoshasthaya Kendra and Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), among others, signed the statement.