Dhaka, Mar 4, 2004 -- Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury has said that journalists enjoy unfettered press freedom here and the government attaches topmost priority to their professional safety.
The Home Minister said this when a delegation of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) led by its Executive Director Ann Cooper called on him at his secretariat office today (Thursday). Asia Program Coordinator of CPJ Abi Wright, journalist Iqbal Athas of Sri Lanka and Andreas Harsono of Indonesia accompanied her during the call on.
The delegation made queries about the steps taken by the present government to protect journalists at work. The Home Minister informed the visiting journalists that he had sent letters to the Deputy Commissioners and police chiefs of all the 64 districts of the country asking them to protect journalists and provide them security when they are threatened. The minister said that there was no deliberate targeting of the journalists.
CPJ leaders also wanted to know about the progress in investigation of cases of injury and murder of journalists at various places of the country, including the southwestern region.
The Home minister said that the government was pursuing the cases with utmost seriousness and most of these cases have been brought under the purview of the Monitoring Cell of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"There is no delay in investigation and prosecution of cases, but the decisions of the courts are beyond the jurisdiction of the government," Altaf Hossain Chowdhury pointed out.
As for the injuries suffered by journalists during agitation programmes, the minister said, "It is the responsibility of the police force to protect the lives and properties of the general public. But police cannot help if anybody is caught in the melee during police action."
The Home Minister also noted that many people were engaged in unethical, criminal and political activities in the guise of journalists, especially in the countryside district areas and they often face backlash as a consequence of their activities.
"So, differentiation should be made between these people and those who face threats or harassments while actually engaged in the profession of journalism," he mentioned. The minister elaborated on the structure and functions of the law enforcement agencies in the country.