"Media has key role to play in upcoming election in Bangladesh"

BIPSS organised a policy cafe titled 'Role of Media in Democracy' on Thursday

Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) president major general (retd) ANM Muniruzzaman has said information space has to be filled up by correct information.

"If there is no right information in the information space, the space will be filled up by disinformation," he said while speaking at a policy cafe titled 'Role of Media in Democracy' on Thursday, reports UNB.

BIPSS, in collaboration with USAID, IFES, and CEPPS, organised the policy cafe.

Ayesha Kabir, head of English Web at Prothom Alo, and Shahriar Feroze, editorial chief of The Daily Observer, shared invaluable insights on the vital role of media in shaping democratic discourse.

Muniruzzaman moderated discussions, fostering an engaging exchange.

The event emphasised the integral role of media in the democratic process, particularly as Bangladesh approaches a pivotal election.

The collaborative effort underscores a commitment to promoting informed democratic engagement.

Muniruzzaman stated the importance of media in a democratic society, especially in the case of Bangladesh where the national election is not far away, the media will play a major role.

In such circumstances, overcoming the challenges of the freedom of media in the democratic society is a significant issue.

Ayesha Kabir asserted that in a country where the parliament is not very strong, the media plays a very important role to get the voice of the people heard.

In the context of Bangladesh, she said, an active role of media is necessary but often it faces obstacles by political entities, corporate, or even by the foreign entities which must be avoided to ensure a vibrant democratic society.

According to Shahriar Feroze, the media is supposed to ensure the meaningful participation of the people in democracy.

But the challenges and restrictions that the media faces from the government and the other entities have an adverse effect which threatens a democratic society, he said.

In response to the question about how media influences people's decision-making, Ayesha Kabir highlighted that mass people get the idea of what is going on around them by the information and the analysis provided by the media.

But social media, in this case, plays both a positive and negative role, she said.

As a lot of fake news, misinformation and disinformation are spread by social media, it affects the people negatively.

But on the bright side, people mostly rely on the mainstream media to check the facts they find in the social media and thus, social media does a favour to the mainstream media.

Shahriar Feroze, while discussing the downward trend of the ranking of the freedom of press in Bangladesh, asserted that despite having a rich media industry, ranking is going down.

He analysed some statistics and showed that despite the increase in the number of TV channels and media presence in Bangladesh, they are not focusing on ensuring the rights of the people, rather the channel owners and the government have a symbiotic relationship.

Ayesha thinks that the media should be bold despite all the pressures from various entities and strike a balance between everything.

Genuine investigation and fact checking must be ensured, she said.

Shahriar thinks that the fake news and misinformation are spread mainly through the social media and so, the focus should be on how to reduce the dependency from social media and rely more on mainstream media.

Also, while talking about ethics, he questioned the ownership of the media channels and the linkage between them and the government is a cause of the failure to ensure professional journalism and overcoming the other existing challenges.

The discussion at the Policy Cafe was followed by an interactive session where the audience shared some observations that it becomes difficult to find authentic information as different types of information come from different sources.

The session also included topics like the possible impact of social media (like TikTok) in upholding democracy.

Besides, the topic like robust media has come in front while discussing the media's role in shaping public perception.

The event was attended by ambassadors and diplomats based in Dhaka, academicians, journalists, students from different universities, and scholars.