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Inu slams Amnesty report, defends govt’s handling of press

  • Published at 08:36 pm May 3rd, 2017
Inu slams Amnesty report, defends govt’s handling of press
Speaking on World Press Freedom Day, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu has said publishers of fake news, provocateurs, and conspirators are "under pressure" in Bangladesh, not journalists. Inu made the comment while addressing a seminar organised at the National Press Club on Wednesday to mark the day. The seminar, titled “Current condition of Press Freedom in Bangladesh,” was organized by private research firm Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) in the VIP Lounge of the Press Club.
Also Read- World Press Freedom Day: The sound of silence
"1,800 online news portals have applied for registration with the Information Ministry. So far, 35 online portals have been closed. They were shut down not for criticizing the activities of the government, but for hurting religious sentiment," the minister said. Inu claimed that legal action had only been taken against news media outlets which were involved in various unethical activities, and the crackdown was not a part of any attempt to muzzle press freedom. "The government is working for journalists as well-wishers, not foes. In this moment, militancy, terrorism, drug-dealers and smugglers are the main threats to the establishment of press freedom in Bangladesh. They are threats to the state too," the information minister added.
Also Read- Amnesty: Bangladesh media faces more restrictions now than ever
Rejecting the Amnesty International report “Attack on Freedom and Repression: Attack on Freedom of Speech in Bangladesh” that came out on Tuesday, Inu said: "Amnesty International has published a biased, ill-motivated report. Amnesty did not stand in favor of Bangladesh during the Liberation War. Even after the death of Bangabandhu, it remained silent." He urged Amnesty to be "more careful" in reporting on Bangladesh and its internal issues in future. The Amnesty report said that journalists in Bangladesh receive threats from both government forces and extremist groups every day. It specified that the government, by issuing lawsuits against top journalists, is delivering the message that if they criticise the government, they can be harassed through various strategies.
Also Read- How free has press been in Bangladesh recently?
The information minister contended that no media outlet faced any pressure for reporting on corruption in the construction of dams in the haor areas. He also pointed to news on smuggling in the country as an example, saying that the regular publishing of such news despite it going "against the government" demonstrated that the government did not wish to restrict the press. Touching on the issue of Section 57 of the ICT Act, the minister said the law was not meant to constrain voices, but rather to "keep everyone safe in cyberspace". He also defended government monitoring of journalists' online activities, claiming it was in the name of keeping them "away from militancy". This will help to build a healthy democracy in the Bangladeshi cyberspace, Inu said. Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) President Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul presented the keynote at the seminar. Editor of Bhorer Kagoj Shyamal Dutta moderated the seminar while president of JPC Shafikur Rahman presided over the programme.
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