||Access to info key
to good governance in South Asia
United News of Bangladesh - Dhaka
GOOD govenance in the South Asian countries
is unlikely to be achieved if people's access to information alongside
responsible journalism is not ensured by removing both state and non-state
hurdles. speakers told an international seminar in Dhaka on Saturday.
They stressed that journalists, as the practitioners
of a most responsible profession, would have to work relentlessly to achieve
freedom of the press keeping it in mind that they are working in public
Singapore-6ascd :Asian Media Information
and Communication Centre arranged the seminar in collaboration with United
News of Bangladesh, UNESCO and the University of Liberal Arts with the
theme “Access to the information and the Empowerment of People'
at the Press Institute of Bangladesh.
With Professor M Harun-or-Rashid of North
South University and president of Bangla Academy in the chair, the opening
session of the seminar was addressed, among others, by AMIC secretary
general Dr Indrajit Banerjee, UNB chairman Amanullah Khan, representative
and director, UNESCO. Bangladesh Maama Maleisea and Professor Brian Shoesmith
Editor of The Daily Star , Mahlfuz Anam
and News Today editor Reazuddin Ahmed made the keynote addresses.
Mahfuz Anam said freedom of press is associated with good governance and
also economic wellbeing of a country. He lamented that people had created
state, but now the state turned out to be `monster'. `Under such a situation,
it is the journalists who are to curtail the power of the state and empower
the masses - and here lies the importance of free flow of information.’
He laid emphasis on understanding the ethos
of mass people for effective contribution of the journalists to the prosperity
of mass people of society.
He, however, noted that only freedom of
press or access to information won't ensure the aspired good governance,
rather journalists would have to achieve such qualities and skills to
address the socio-economic problems and explore the potential.
Reazuddin Ahmed in his speech demanded full
review of the recent draft of the Right to Information Act of Bangladesh.
saying that many clauses will act as barrier to free and timely access
Professor Rashid said access to information
and people's empowerment are deeply interrelated. Access to information
is usually denied by the authorities on various excuses, including national
security, and often public journalism becomes difficult due to self-censorship
of the media-men, he added.
He observed that unless the journalists
are able "to remove their fear from editors and owners, fair journalism
would be difficult to do. Amanullah Khan said article 39 (2) of Bangladesh
constitution guarantees the right of ever}- citizen to freedom of speech
He underscored the need for having respect
for the sensitivities. sentiments, customs and culture of each other as
a key ingredient of responsible journalism.
`Tolerance and restraint are essential components
of freedom of expression.' lie said.
Amanullah Khan praised the interim government
for its initiatives for formulating the Right to Information Act and separation
of the judiciary as the key steps towards achieving the cherished good
governance and people's empowerment.
He recognised that the present interim government
has repeatedly described the media as the second parliament in the absence
of a functioning parliament.
UNESCO Journalism Award 2008 on investigative
reporting was given at the function. Staff reporter of the Daily Prothom
Alo Dewan Hanif Mahbub won the award for his reports on occupation of
forestlands at Bhaluka in Mymensingh by landgrabbers.
The seminar had two plenary sessions and
one panel discussion. The first plenary session titled ‘National
Security, Barriers and Access to information in South Asia' was addressed
by Javed Nazir and Shyam Tekwani of Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore, Kapila Gamage, Community Radio Consultant, Srilanka, with ATM
Bangla chief adviser Saiful Bari in the chair.
Chaired by former adviser to caretaker government
and editor of The Independent Mahbubul Alam, the second plenary session
on Access to information and Empowerment of Communities was addressed
by Vinaya Kasajoo of Rural Development Palpa, Nepal, Aniruddha Bahal of
Cobrapost.Com, India, Farid Hossain, the bureau chief of Associated Press
in Bangladesh, Aasah Mehereen Amin of the Daily Star and global president
of the Commonwealth Journalists Association Hasan Shahriar.
The panel discussion titled 'Can Access
to Information by itself Empower People?' was addressed by Dr Kaberi Gayen
of Dhaka University mass communication and journalism department. Rajpal
Abeynayake of Lakbima News of Srilanka, Samia Zaman, freelance journalist
of Bangladesh, Dr Andrew Taussig from International Institute of Communication,
the United Kingdom and M Jahangir, executive director of the Centre for