Engage in proper criticisms of media policy

The National Broadcasting Policy or the media policy as it is broadly understood, drew very hostile criticisms immediately after its declaration last year. Many members of the media community as well as others embarked on a virulent campaign of sorts that introduction of the policy marked an attempt on the part of the government to go back to the days of the BKSAL in mid-1975 when all newspapers but a few were asked to stop publishing and the press was sought to be severely regulated also in other ways by the then wielders of political power in Bangladesh.
But on closer examination, it could be seen that such conclusions were being drawn too sweepingly or thoughtlessly in the present context. Bangladesh today has a booming media–print as well as electronic–and no suggestions are there in the policy that it would be reduced in size quantitatively or otherwise.
Besides, it was hinted in the early days after the unfurling of the policy by the Information Minister that it was not set on stone. It was really a policy proposed, not finalized and far from being adopted. After all, a governmental policy to become finally enforceable must be supported by enabling legislation involving the parliament. In parliament also a bill is floated and it takes time for it to be discussed by the members who in some cases at least are expected to be sensitized by criticisms about it outside the parliament. Thus, finally after a law is adopted, it might be different from its original proposition incorporating worthwhile suggestions from stakeholders.
The way things stand now, the government or the Information Ministry is making all the signals that they are not adamant to implement the policy completely unchanged from its present form. They would not dislike constructive criticisms of it or recommendations to improve it.
Thus, media professionals need to be wary in their responses to what is still, essentially, a policy in proposed form. Instead of denouncing it wholesale as an expression of the growing totalitarian mentality of the government, they would do better for themselves and people’s interests by limiting their analysis and suggestions to only those sections or paragraphs of the proposed policy that would undermine their legitimate professional requirements and people’s rightful interests respectively if the same are adopted in their present form.
Unfortunately, much of the media appears to have become captive of political designs over the issue. The main unofficial political opposition in the country has been consistent in its attacks on the policy describing it as nothing but a move to gag the media for good so that it cannot tell the truth about government’s tyrannies or the corruptions of its members.
But this oversimplification of the matter by political quarters and media’s acceptance of the same will likely be most unfortunate. Media must not allow itself to fall into this trap set by the politicians to promote their vested interests. Media needs to be guided purely by their own professional needs and should seek to work with the government as a ‘partner’ to be finally able to help the framing and putting into effect a media policy about which none of the stakeholders would have qualms worth mentioning.
But time has come for members of the media to wholeheartedly admit that there must be a policy to provide guidelines for their functioning, to get the most positives out of the working of the media and to guard against abuses and excesses. For it is a fact of life that media members in Bangladesh these days do not act conscientiously, objectively or correctly in many cases. Many instances are noted in which sections of the media can be held grossly irresponsible for misinformation, under information, malevolent and tendentious propaganda, deliberate distortion and other ills.
Thus, government indeed has a powerful case for wanting to bring the media under some kind of regulations, where necessary and justified. The only thing media people can say against such a move is government’s intentions should be strictly limited to ensuring better media performance through such regulations. But in the name of regulations, government must not be allowed to extend curbs on the well deserved freedom of the media insofar as these apply to protecting or promoting genuine public interests and democratic aspirations.