TIB concerned as Bangladesh moves to re-register online portals of newspapers, TV

  • Staff Correspondent,
    Published: 2020-09-01 23:46:26 BdST

Transparency International Bangladesh, or TIB, has condemned a government directive to separately register all online portals in Bangladesh, particularly those of the long-serving national newspapers and TV stations.

This directive, at a time when the National Broadcast Commission and online regulations are yet to be finalised, will establish total control of the government over the media, the anti-graft watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The move also marks yet another suicidal step towards completing the efforts of a section of the government to control the media,” it added.

TIB hoped that the information ministry will immediately roll back the directive asking newspapers and television channels, which have been running their online portal under the existing policy, to get separate registration.

On Monday, the ministry issued a directive asking the authorities to register all online news portals, including online editions of national newspapers, television and radio channels, amending the existing National Online Mass Media Policy 2017.

Information Minister Hasan Mahmud assured the editors’ board on Tuesday that the online portals of the newspapers will be registered soon on a priority basis following the revised policy.

TIB’s Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman, however, said, “It has been reported in the media that even the newspapers and TV channels that have been in operation for many years have been asked to seek re-registration of their online portals.“

“Although it is being explained by the Information Ministry to be part of an attempt to provide the media with the advantages of being registered with the government and as an attempt to control yellow journalism, this will in reality only establish total control of the government over the media in the country,” he added.

“It is absolutely inexplicable that while from the highest authority of the government pledges are being regularly made to ensure transparency and accountability, those who are supposed to implement such pledges are desperate to create all possible barriers against independent and courageous journalism that could expose corruption, abuse of power and mismanagement,” the statement added.

The TIB chief also said the government did not heed the opinion of the media experts that the online portals of the national dailies and televisions, which have been in operation for a long time under the existing registration policy, should continue to do so.

“The imposition of the decision without setting up the Broadcast Commission and finalising the online media regulations is bound to be a big threat to free media.

“On the other hand, the failure to entrust the proposed commission with authority to implement recommendations poses the risk of making it yet another toothless tiger.”

TIB called upon the government to directly engage with all stakeholders for views and opinions instead of rushing to decisions on a subject of such highly sensitive and nationally importance.