A free press is essential in any democratic society. And the prerequisite of a free press is for journalists to carry out professional duties, staying above all fear and temptation. It is about going from fear to fearlessness. Article 39(2)(b) of our Constitution states “...freedom of the press, are guaranteed”. The very same article states freedom of thought can be a "subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law” but it guarantees freedom of the press.

This freedom of the press or media is all the more necessary during war, famine and natural or humanitarian crisis than that is required during normal times. The world including Bangladesh has been going through the Covid-19 pandemic. The involvement and solidarity of people from all walks of life, including the government and the opposition parties, is necessary to face the severe blow on public life, education, health service and economy caused by this pandemic that began in March last year. In this case, an uninterrupted information flow that means an absolute freedom of media is imperative.

Noble laureate Amartya Sen talked about famine and said that no famine takes place in a country having a free press. His landmark remark is equally applicable to other calamities including pandemic. If people get information, facing disaster becomes easier. The question may arise on which information is correct. The Narendra Modi government of India appealed to the Supreme Court to restrict publishing ‘false’ and ‘misinformation’ but the court rejected it. No such appeal has been made in Bangladesh although policymakers of the government have cried foul over ‘wrong’ information in various times.

The government has imposed lockdown, restricted people’s movement, announced stimulus for pandemic-hit sectors as well as cash stimulus and assistance for poor people to fight the coronavirus pandemic and, as far as we know, no media has opposed it. So, revealing the wrongdoings, irregularities and corruption committed during the implementation of the right decisions of the government is obviously not the spreading of misinformation. Rather the government has taken speedy action as various irregularities of the health sector including Shahed and Sabrina scams were published in media. Similarly, publishing reports on implementation of various projects, personnel recruitment and procurement of equipment by the health ministry during the coronavirus had exposed the corrupt and benefited the people and the country. So we don’t think that there is any scope to see the media's investigations and exposure of the truth in a negative sense.

The waywardness of US’ Trump administration is evident on how deadly it can be if the role of a free press is denied. Donald Trump during his time as the president had brought the country to a severe disaster related to coronavirus pandemic ignoring information of the media and the expert advice. The situation has improved much as the Biden administration paid heed to the information of media and the advice of experts.

The government’s ministers often said they don’t want the government confronting the media and they want cooperation. And we, too, want that their activities reflect this.