What Compels Journalists to Take a Step Back?: Contextualizing the Media Laws and Policies of Bangladesh

What Compels Journalists to Take a Step Back?: Contextualizing the Media Laws and Policies of Bangladesh

Janina Islam Abir, Tanbir Farhad Shamim
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1298-2.ch003
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Reports by international organizations suggest that physical violence and threats against journalists and bloggers continued with impunity in Bangladesh, resulting in the country being ranked as 146 in the World Press Freedom Index 2018. Considering the increasing incidents of violence against journalists and attacks on media freedom, this chapter specifically aims to shed light on Bangladeshi laws and policies, which are related to media freedom and to protect media from crime against journalists. Relying on Beata Rozumilowicz's concept of media reform and stages of media reform, the study urges that Bangladesh is in under the rule of democratic rule for years that symbolizes the primary transition stage. However, the enactment of statutes on digital media, access to information, defamation, and so on epitomize the pre-transition stage of the media reform concept. Hence, the study questions the legal and media structure of Bangladesh with the historical and document analysis of laws and policies.
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The media freedom and national security policies are two inalienable theses in the scholarship of freedom of speech and safety of journalists. In the context of Bangladesh, press freedom is profoundly related to the legislature of the state as the constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh has given freedom of expression, freedom of thoughts, and freedom of the press long back in 1972. The Constitution (1972) has guaranteed the freedom of thought and conscience in its article 39 (1). The constitution has also given the freedom of speech and expression to its every citizen along with the freedom of the press (The constitution of Bangladesh, 1972).

However, the article has some exemptions including the interests of the security of the states, public order, decency or morality, or in relations to contempt of court, defamation, or incitements to an offense.

It is quite evident that there are some exemptions in the constitution that can restrict the freedom of expression for the citizen and press. Even then, those exemptions were not meant to trouble the free operation of the media.

Bangladesh is in under the rule of successive democracy for last several years hence make the call for freedom of speech more obvious than ever before (Ahamed, 2015). Media freedom has a distinct character in the formation of a democratic country (Voltmer, 2014). Nevertheless, national laws and policies regarding media freedom often deliberated as less significant than the practice of journalism. It doesn’t shed much light on how power or authority should protect media personnel, and ensure object and operations. Hence, Freedom House report 2017 pointed Bangladeshi media as partly free with the second-lowest score in the legal environment (The Freedom House, 2017). The legal environment of Bangladesh regarding media is threatening the free functions of the press in Bangladesh. Considering the legal context of the country, the chapter presents the concept of media reform and legal obstacles and discusses the media scenario of the country along with media freedom status. The chapters reflect on major media laws of the country through document analysis and findings of the interviews are also discussed to answer research questions.

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