The government is controlling the media in various ways. The mainstream media that are trying to work impartially are being subjected to various obstacles. Freedom of media could not be ensured if rule of law is not established through a fair election in the country.
Speakers at a webinar titled 'Hope for fair elections and role of media' said this on Friday morning. 'Forum for Bangladesh Studies' organised the webinar.
The speakers in the webinar said that there is no instance of fair elections under the party government in the country. That’s why freedom of media should be brought back by organising an election under a non-partisan government. Thus the people’s trust in the media can be restored.
Senior journalist Masud Kamal in his keynote paper said the government is muzzling the media through some strange means with the most effective one being the government advertisement. The influence of the media has decreased more than in any time in the past. People’s tendency to buy newspapers for home and the habit to watch television with due importance has decreased. Media also no longer speak for people’s rights and interests; rather they work to get advertisement. In return, the media constantly eulogises the government or ruling quarter.
The key note said politicisation has reached such an extent in the country that the media are divided into pro-Awami League or pro-BNP. As a result, whatever they say on fair elections is doubted by the people. As the mainstream media fail to fulfill the needs of the people, some opportunists are taking to social media to spread unbridled propaganda. They influenced people's thinking about elections.
Masud Kamal further said that the question whether they can cast their own votes looms large in the people’s mind. But the media cannot play its role duly. The desire for fair elections is increasing among people but the media are not being able to play the expected role. Rather, the media sometimes emerge as the ruling quarter’s ancillary. A small section that could reflect the people’s aspiration needs to be bolstered.
Taking part in the discussion, Dainik Manabzamin’s editor Matiur Rahman said how can journalists write freely while living amidst a culture of fear? The journalists have surrendered helplessly. The media used to be controlled once by closing but now more media outlets are being introduced and controlled.
Fair journalism cannot be expected if this restriction does not end. Journalists are entangled by digital and cyber security acts and self-censorship. The freedom of media would not be ensured without rule of law, he added.
Senior journalist Mostafa Firoz said although a handful of newspapers are trying to do journalism, the television channels are being used as weapons of the government. A fair election can’t be expected under such a circumstance.
Rajshahi University mass communication and journalism department’s professor A Al Mamun said there is no record in the country that a party government holds a fair election. The media is working to fulfill the government’s wish due to various conditions and their own interest. After Prothom Alo published a story on 26 March, a certain television channel countered the report going against the ethics of journalism. Later Prothom Alo’s reporter was arrested and a case was filed against the editor. Journalist organisations need to speak for a fair journalistic environment.
Saimum Parvez, postdoctoral fellow of Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, in his closing remarks said a sense of distrust has been created among mass people about the media. The media is going through the worst situation in many respects. There needs to be an open environment and accountability.
Journalist Monir Haider conducted the webinar.