Information Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday said measures would be taken to register online versions of newspapers on a priority basis.
At the same time, the government will take necessary steps to pay the arrears to newspapers for publishing government advertisements and supplements on different occasions.
The information minister told this to reporters after a meeting with Sampadak Parishad (Editors’ Council), a platform of editors of different national dailies, at his secretariat office.
Editors of different newspapers joined the meeting. At the meeting, the editors requested the minister to take immediate measures to register the online versions of newspapers and pay the dues to newspapers.
They also raised different other related issues and requested the minister to solve those.
Regarding the meeting, the information minister said first of all, meetings are held with the Sampadak Parishad regularly. Such kind of a meeting was held yesterday.
“Today [yesterday] we have discussed especially so that online versions of newspapers can get registered soon. They [information ministry] also think that there is no need for much scrutiny to give registration to online versions of newspapers, especially the major ones,” he said.
“Because the newspapers are being published following due process and scrutiny. Therefore, online versions of newspapers will be registered on a priority basis.”
About the arrears for publishing government advertisements and supplements, the information minister said many newspaper bills are stuck at various ministries. In total, it will be several hundred crore of Taka.
“Discussions are going on about this so that the bills are cleared soon. The information ministry will issue letters in this regard. It’s because the cabinet division had earlier urged all the ministries and departments to clear the arrears,” Hasan Mahmud said.
Following this, the information ministry had cleared some arrears. But the amount was very negligible compared to the outstanding bills. That’s why another letter will be issued, said the minister.
The minister said the bills should be paid soon. As the bills have to be paid, it will be more helpful for newspapers if they get the arrears now as they are in crisis.
Naem Nizam, general secretary of Sampadak Parishad and also editor of Bangladesh Pratidin, said they discussed how to resolve the crisis the media is facing and how soon online versions of the mainstream newspapers can get registered following the new national online media policy.
“The information minister also assured us of a speedy solution. Secondly, mass media around the world is now facing the crisis. Bangladesh is not exceptional. The minister said he will try and help solve this crisis. He said there is no alternative to state cooperation for the advancement of the media.”
In his introductory speech at the beginning of the meeting, the information minister said the mainstream media has played a very responsible role during the epidemic. They are also going through crisis. Newspapers are being published and distributed all over the country despite the crisis. He thanked the Sampadak Parishad for this.
“The biggest thing is that the government and the media are working together during the pandemic. That’s why efforts to spread propaganda didn’t work.”
In response to a question, he said the BNP itself is an obstacle to democracy.
Matiur Rahman, editor and publisher of Prothom Alo, Imdadul Haq Milon, editor of Kaler Kantho, Khandaker Muniruzzaman, acting editor of Sangbad, Enamul Hoque Chowdhury, editor of Daily Sun, Dewan Hanif Mahmud, editor and publisher of Bonik Barta, Mustafiz Shafi, acting editor of Samakal, and Shyamal Dutta, editor of Bhorer Kagoj, took part in the meeting apart from Naem Nizam.
Information Secretary Kamrun Nahar was also present at the meeting.
Transparency International Bangladesh yesterday expressed grave concern over the government directive to separately register all online portals of the country, particularly those of the long serving national newspapers and TV channels.
Commenting that this directive, at a time when the National Broadcast Commission and online regulations are yet to be finalised, will establish total control and intervention of the government over the media as it also marks yet another suicidal step towards completing the efforts of a section of the government to control the media.
In a statement issued to the media, Dr Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of TIB said, “it has been reported in the media that even the newspapers and TV channels that have been in operation for many years have been asked to seek re-registration of their online portals.”
“Although it is being explained by the Information Ministry to be part of an attempt to provide the media the advantages of being registered with the government and as an attempt to control yellow journalism, this will in reality only establish total control of the government over the media in the country,” reads the statement.
The Executive Director of TIB said, “It is disappointing that the government has ignored the media stakeholders and experts’ views that the long serving newspapers and TV channels are by their very right and legal existence already entitled to keeping their online portals active.”
TIB earnestly expects that the government will abandon this new directive of re-registration of online portals of long-running newspapers and TV channels, and rather would ensure free media in the country by a set of positive initiatives for the media including scrapping of the regressive provisions of the Digital Security Act.