Vol. 5 Num 948 Mon. January 29, 2007  
Front Page

Editors vow to defy media gagging rule
Information adviser assures editors, senior newsmen

Editors of national newspapers, news agencies and television channels, and senior journalists categorically told Law and Information Adviser Mainul Hosein that they will not abide by the restrictions imposed on the media by the emergency rules.

The editors and journalist were up in arms against the rules in a meeting with Moinul yesterday and asked for immediate withdrawal of the media restrictions.

During the meeting in his office yesterday, Information Adviser Mainul Hosein however said the interim government did not introduce any rule or order curbing press freedom, as the media and the people are the source of this government's power.

"I have explained to them [editors] that the emergency has a framework according to which we have the power but did not introduce any law curtailing press freedom," he told reporters emerging out of the meeting with the editors and senior journalists.

In the meeting, columnist and eminent journalist ABM Musa said, "After reading the law, it seems that the caretaker government does not trust the media. It has damaged the trust that developed over the period."

Referring to Pakistan, Daily Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman said, "They have 100 military rules and 100 press freedoms. They severely criticise President Musharraf and his administration."

"You said you trust the people and the newspapers. In reality, it isn't becoming the truth. We will not comply with your restrictions," he added.

The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam said, "The issue with the rules is such, they are standing in a room with their swords drawn and saying, Mahfuz write everything you can."

Demanding immediate withdrawal of the rule, Mahfuz Anam said, "The world has changed, Bangladesh and its newspapers have also changed. We do not want to return to 1990."

Daily Jugantor Editor Golam Sarwar said, "Once the trust is lost, it is hard to recover."

Referring to the media restrictions as 'unnecessary', Daily Samakal Editor Abed Khan said, "You have raised questions about our honesty." He also demanded withdrawal of the rule.

Demanding the rule's withdrawal, The Observer's Editor Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury criticised it and said, "The rule contradict the government's statement. Don't take away freedom of the press."

Janakantha Editor Atikullah Khan Masud said, "There should have been a discussion with editors before the rules were prepared."

The law adviser, explaining the imposition of the state of emergency rule, said, "Peace has returned after the state of emergency was declared. It was done to protect democracy and the constitution. It is not anti-democratic, despite being a state of emergency."

Mainul added, "It is only a temporary arrangement. The state of emergency was imposed in the context of a dangerous anarchic situation."

"The constitution itself states that the freedom of newspapers and the media can be suspended. The recent promulgation of the rules only reminds us of that fact," he said.

Reminding the newsmen of the chief adviser's address to the nation, Mainul said, "The order was not promulgated with the intention of curtailing press freedom."

Saying, "The government has plenty of trust in honest journalism," the information adviser praised the role of journalists as constructive and responsible. He also praised the role of the press in exposing corruption and social injustice.

He said the government does not believe in a policy of pressuring honest journalists rather it trusts journalists' intelligence and their ability to judge each situation on its merit.

The information adviser urged the journalists to play constructive roles in assisting the government.

Acting Editor of Daily Ittefaq Rahat Khan, editors Mahbubul Alam of The Independent, Shafiq Rehman of Jai Jai Din, Golam Sarwar of daily Jugantar, Bazlur Rahman of daily Sangbad, Abed Khan of daily Samakal, Reazuddin Ahmed of News Today, Atiqullah Khan Masud of Janakantha, Kazi Shahed Ahmed of Ajker Kagoj, Amanullah Kabir of Amar Desh, Gias Kamal Chowdhury of daily Khabarpatra, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury of daily Manabzamin, Moazzem Hossain of The Financial Express, Kazi Siraj of daily Dinkal, veteran journalist ABM Musa, adviser to ATN Bangla Saiful Bari, chief editor of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury, Ferdous Ahmed Qureshi of the Desh Bangla, and director (news) of Channel i Shaikh Siraj were present among others.

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is greatly concerned about the new regulations imposed by the interim government that severely restrict news reporting, said UNB.

The committee said the Emergency Powers Rules of 2007 announced Thursday restrict press coverage of political news and set penalties of up to five years in prison for violations.

"These rules give authorities sweeping powers of censorship that will deprive Bangladeshi citizens of independent information at this critical time," said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director. "We call on the interim government to rescind these repressive rules immediately."