The global coronavirus crisis had largely affected the Bangladeshis newspaper industry and it was nearly on the verge of collapse, said the Editors Council
Condemning the recent spate of cases filed against journalists across the country, the Editors Council has demanded that the Digital Security Act, which it said was being widely abused, be amended.
“There is no apparatus to safeguard newspapers and media persons. Amid unfavourable legal circumstances, we feel that it is necessary to amend the Digital Security Act,” it said in a statement on Monday.
It expressed concerns over the recent increase in incidents of journalists being harassed, adding that the Digital Security Act was being used “intentionally” for that purpose.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, journalists are risking their lives reporting from the frontline, the Council said in the statement.
“But they are working amid various kinds of pressure and threats, which is forcing news organisations and media persons to resort to self-censorship, which in turn hinders the proper functioning of an accountable administration and social system,” it added.
The Editors Council said that it saw no logical reason for newspapers requiring approval from the government for publishing news online.
“Newspapers should be treated like television channels, which need no approval to operate online outlets,” the statement said, adding that this had been agreed upon at a joint meeting of the Information Ministry and stakeholders concerned.
Referring to the recent list of 34 verified online news portals, the Council said that it was “astounding” that the list released by the government did not include any of the online outlets operated by reputable and credible newspapers of the country.
The global coronavirus crisis had largely affected the Bangladeshis newspaper industry and it was nearly on the verge of collapse, said the Editors Council.
Sales of newspapers as well as the number of advertisements had dropped significantly. Several newspapers in Bangladesh had stopped publishing and moved to an online format, the statement said.
“Newspapers have adopted cost-saving measures, which includes reducing the number of pages and cutting down on administrative expenses. Despite all the odds, we have continued to publish to ensure news for readers,” the statement reads.
Despite being recognized as a service industry, newspapers have never received any “effective help and cooperation” from the government, the Editors Council said.
The statement noted that the Editors Council had always tried to project the critical state of the newspaper industry before the government, but “it is unfortunate that the government did not pay heed” to such concerns.