If the proposed Mass Media Employees (Services Conditions) Bill 2022 is enacted, it would impede free journalism and freedom of speech; and shrink the growth of the newspaper industry, says Editors’ Council (Sampadak Parishad).
In a statement signed by its president Mahfuz Anam and general secretary Dewan Md Hanif Mahmud, the council said 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.
To finalise such a law, it is necessary to take a decision through discussions with all stakeholders, the statement said.
The bill was tabled in parliament on 28 March and later it was referred to the parliamentary committee for further scrutiny.
Analysing the proposed bill, the Editors’ Council expressed its observation through the statement and said the media industry and media employees are being taken in the grip of bureaucracy in a greater way on the pretext of safeguarding the media employees' interest.
The formation of media court and appellate court would lead to legal complexities for the media employees and hinder the mass media to operate independently.
The Editors’ Council also feared that the editorial institution would be destroyed completely if the law is passed.
Apart from that, the owners have been pitted against media employees in the proposed law creating a fear of division among them, added the statement.
The council further said that the bill widened the ground of government’s interference in the operation of mass media, though the industry belongs to the private owners.
The newspaper industry is now going through a tough time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many dailies in home and abroad have started cutting down their print edition, or stopping print circulation.
The industry witnessed a significant fall in revenue from advertisement. The printed newspapers have been replaced with digital platforms.
In such a tiring situation, the Mass Media Employees (Services Conditions) Bill 2022 was placed in parliament for approval on 28 March.