The statement said Digital Security Act has already hampered the journalists’ ability to think independently. The law, if enacted, would weaken the newspaper industry more. The law would also undermine the dignity of journalists.

The Mass Media Employees (Services Conditions) Bill 2022 was placed in parliament for approval on 28 March. The bill has been sent to the parliamentary committee for information and broadcast ministry for submitting a report to the parliament within 60 days.

The NOAB said the proposed law prescribed that a media court would be set up at the divisional level for the settlement of financial arrears of media employees. There would be a chairman and two members at the court. A district judge would be the chairman while a media owner and a journalist would be the other two members. It can be noted that the labour court is here for arbitration of debt-arrear related issues of journalists.

Moreover, Bangladesh Press Council has been working to safeguard the freedom of speech and ensure quality control of newspapers and news agencies. So, supervision of activities of news media industries is possible by the existing industrial law, Bangladesh Labor Act, press council and Department of Films and Publications, the statement said.

The NOAB statement said the association has been playing an important role in the development of newspaper industries since its inception in 2004. The government in 2014 declared newspapers as an ‘industry’ due to continuous demand from the NOAB. The newspaper industry, however, is not yet getting the facilities to which an industry is entitled.

Stating that the newspaper industry is having a hard time due to the Covid situation, the NOAB said the newspaper industry did not get any assistance from the government like other sectors during the lockdown period. While a tonne of newsprint paper could be imported at USD 500 in 2020, the price has now more than doubled. The newspaper industry is also facing challenges in terms of numbers of readers and business aspects due to digital media.

NOAB said the Editors Council, a platform of editors, has stated that 37 out of 54 sections of the bill are not journalist-friendly and, in general, it is against the interest of mass media and media employees. Senior journalists and journalist union leaders also voiced their objections to the bill.

The NOAB said newspapers played a pivotal role during all movements for autonomy during the ‘50s to ‘70s and before and after the liberation war. The newspapers also played an important role during the movement against the anti-autocratic regime in ‘90s.

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