Violation of the rights to freedom of expression is same for both media personnel and the general public
Speakers at a webinar of the Basic Rights Protection Committee said that freedom of speech is not limited to freedom of press because every single citizen is entitled to enjoy the rights to freedom of expression.
However, only a few cases of violation of the rights to freedom of expression get media attention.
The webinar on the crisis of freedom of expression was held on Saturday.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik said freedom of speech is not just an issue of people who work in the media. He said people from all walks of life should enjoy the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
“Lack of freedom of expression is an impediment to development. There are many sections of society who are not aware about freedom of expression but suffer when they are deprived of the freedom of expression,” he said.
Shakhawat Liton, planning editor of the Daily Star, said : “Our current situation when it comes to freedom of expression resonates with the boiling frog fable. We are used to being silenced and practicing self-censorship.”
He also said rickshaw pullers are often beaten up and abused by police on the street but they cannot even tell the police that they have the right to speak up against them.
Prothom Alo journalist Mizanur Rahman said it is true that when a journalist or people in a powerful position get arrested for speaking up or doing their job, it gets enough media coverage and public outcry.
“It happens because the media professionals often work as a pressure group. Unfortunately, the rest of the people who are not privileged, do not get enough media attention when their freedom of expression gets violated,” he said, adding that crisis in law and order has caused this situation.
Faruq Faisel, regional director of ARTICLE 19, said the Covid-19 situation has shown that people in Bangladesh do not even have the right to know about their rights to access to the healthcare system.
“First the authorities stopped taking questions from the media and then stopped the health bulletin on Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh. People do not know where the budget on health is going during this global health crisis,” he said.
Faculty member of Journalism and Mass Communication department of Rajshahi University, Abdullah Mamun, said he often has to use self-censorship in the class because even the classroom is not a place for practicing freedom of speech anymore.