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August 22, 2004 

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Freedom of Expression in Jeopardy

The uninterrupted flow of information is a must for the good governance. The concept of "Open Government" means where citizens have access to the government policy which uphold the participation of the democracy. The people's rights to know, have to be enshrined so that they can serve as a watchdog in flourishing the democracy.

Article 39 of our constitution guaranteed the freedom of speech with some reasonable restrictions. These restrictions have been proclaimed to stop the abuse of exercising this power by unscrupulous vested quarter. Unless the flow of information appears detrimental to the interest of the state, gagging the freedom of thought is a flagrant infringement of human rights. International human rights campaigner define freedom of expression in three ways, as an aspect of human dignity, as the best means of ascertaining the truth and as a fundamental underpinning of democracy.

Recently the IGP of police issued an order that the police personnel below the rank of police super will not be allowed to divulge any information to the press or media. This decision is tantamount to violation of human rights and this will pave the way for mal-administration especially in a country like Bangladesh where democracy is at embryonic stage. Putting a rein on the journalists will blur the democratic process as they are acting like a mirror of the nation. If citizens can not see what is going on within the government, mismanagement and corruption will go unabated. This is not the first time government is in a bid to embark on stamping the natural efflux of information. Couple of month back the National Security Intelligence Agency proposed to the government to allow them to tap telephone calls and read the e-mails. Government reportedly agreed and they attributed the skyrocketing trend in the rise of crime to implementing this policy. There are thousand of alternative ways to safeguard the security of the state and hampering the privacy of the individuals is by no means acceptable.

Imran Ahmed
Mohammadpur, Dhaka.


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