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December, 2005

 

Government initiated to revise the Press Council Act-1974:
In a meeting at the Information Ministry on 13 December (Tuesday) headed by the Information Secretary Barrister Hayder Ali Khan discussed to revise the Press Council Act-1974 to get more power for taking action against any media if necessary. Earlier, Chairman of the Press Council has sent a draft proposal to revise the act to the Ministry of Information. In the proposal he suggest to raise the council's power to take punitive measure against press including cancellation of a newspaper declaration (registration) for at least a day.

According to The Daily Star, no representative from any distinguish newspaper were present at the council meeting except Barrister Moinul Hossain, editorial board chairman of Daily Ittefaq. Daily Inqilab editor AMM Bahauddin resigned from the council as a member when the current chairman of the press council sworn in.

The Daily Star also quoted the Information Minister M. Shamsul Islam that they would examine the proposal. The minister, however, says that government has always been working to safeguard media's freedom and media enjoys greatest freedom in Bangladesh. The Press Council Chairman Justice Abu Sayed Ahammed says in an interview with the Daily Amader Shomoy on 12 December that the Press Council is an inactive organisation. It has no power to prepare new law upon revision of the Official Secrecy Act. The Chairman also expressed his interest to get more power to take necessary action against media or journalist having control over them.

The draft proposal says that the press council can fine to any editor, reporter, newspaper or news agency up to Taka=20,000/- (Euro=3,000/- approximately) if they found guilty and the fine will be realised in 30 days of the verdict. It also says, "excepting the judgement and order passed in the cases on trial, in case of violence or disobedience of any other orders of the press council, Contempt of Courts Act shall be applicable".

The section 12 (2) of the press council act says: “If the council is of the opinion that it is necessary or expedient in the public interest so to do, it may require any newspaper to publish therein, in such manner as the Council thinks fit, any report relating to any inquiry under this section against a newspaper or news agency, and editor or a journalist working therein, including the name of such newspaper, news agency, editor or journalist.”

The council proposes for adding to the section 12(2): “The delinquent newspaper shall publish the report/judgement/order of the Press Council within seven days of its receipt and in case of failure, the Press Council shall direct the concerned authority to stop the action of declaration of the delinquent newspaper till the date of publication of the report/judgement/order of the Press Council.”

he proposal, however, produced reaction among the media/press freedom activists, journalists, and media professional with worries to see misuse of law in near future if the revised act is amend.

 

Follow up: One month of Gautam murder:
It has been a month, on 17 December, of brutal murder of Gautam Das, correspondent of Dainik Shamokal, in Faridpur, west of the capital. He was strangled with rope in his office at the Soruni Super Market in the very early morning. No charge sheet is yet made as three assailants have already given their confessional statement. Press freedom activists, journalists thinks there are no need of procrastination of making the charge sheet when police says they want to go in depth of the 'mystery'. 

According to Dainik Prothom Alo, published on 17 December, three causes are considering as motive of the murder. But, Gautam's report on the reconstruction of the town's Mujib Road published in the Dainik Shamokal considered the most noteworthy. In this murder case, police got ten people's name, but could arrest only five. They are: Tamjid Hossain Babu (35), Asad Bin Kadir (32), Md. Siddiqur Rahman (46), Abu Taher Md. Motiur Ehsan (28) and Rajib Hossain Mona. Amongst them, Babu, Asad and Motiur gave the confessional statement to the court. The rest two are in the jail custody.

The other five accused who are absconding, are: Md. Asif Imran, Asif Imtiaz Bhulu, Kazi Murad, K M Jahid and Apan. Journalists in Faridpur are often getting threats to quit all protests and interests regarding Gautam's murder, otherwise they would be punished. Few journalists already recorded primary complaints of threats with the local police station.

Mr. Syed Mannan Ali, inspector of the Faridpur Police Station says that they are able to make the charge sheet, but they want to find the 'mystery'. He refused to disclose the mystery for the sake of investigation. Faridpur Press Club arranged meeting at its premises to mourn and to remember Gautam - their colleague. On the other hand, Gautam's parents are expected to join other family members of journalists murdered in the past on 18 December in a convention organised by one of the fraction of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) at the National Press Club, Dhaka .



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