CPJ urges Bangladesh to rescind emergency media rules

New York, January 26, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists is greatly concerned about new regulations imposed by the Bangladeshi interim government that severely restrict news reporting. The Emergency Powers Rules of 2007, announced on Thursday, restrict press coverage of political news and set penalties of up to five years in prison for violations.

The new rules aim at a wide range of political activities. Those dealing specifically with media allow the government to ban or censor print and broadcast news about rallies and other political activities that it deems “provocative or harmful.” Under the rules, the government can seize printed material and confiscate printing presses and broadcast equipment. The government also has power under the regulations to censor or block news transmitted in any form.

“These rules give authorities sweeping powers of censorship that will deprive Bangladeshi citizens of independent information at this critical time of political upheaval,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “We call on the interim government to rescind these repressive rules immediately.”

Bangladesh has been embroiled in political turmoil since October, when Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s administration came to an end in the run-up to constitutionally mandated elections. Voting had been scheduled for this week but was postponed when opposition parties protested irregularities. President Iajuddin Ahmed stepped down as leader of the caretaker government and declared a state of emergency on January 11, following bitter clashes between supporters of the two major rival parties.
The regulations took effect today and will remain in force until the government lifts the state of emergency, according to Thursday’s announcement.