ARTICLE 19, the UK-based international human rights organization, has strongly condemned the 'retrenchment policy for journalists' of some media houses, including the daily Alokito Bangladesh and Gazi TV (GTV), during the crisis caused by the coronavirus. Expressing deep concern over the illegal issuance of dismissal notices to media workers during the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the international human rights organization said that freedom of the media is by no means above accountability.
So, the media houses must show a sense of responsibility; as well as must be held accountable to the readers, viewers, and above all the people of the country for all the actions and steps taken by them, it said. The ARTICLE 19 has called for the immediate withdrawal of the dismissal notices of the concerned journalists.
The UK based international organization that works to protect freedom of expression and the right to information issued a press release in this regard on Monday.
Faruq Faisel, Bangladesh and South Asia Regional Director for ARTICLE 19, said in his statement ‘‘As frontline workers in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, journalists are working tirelessly, risking their lives, to provide the necessary information to the public and make them aware as well. At such times it is most important to ensure their health safety and economic security. Even the highest level of the government has called for no retrenchment in any organization during the pandemic. However, even in such a context, some media houses are deciding to sack staffs, which is unjust, ruthless, and extremely frustrating. This situation will hamper the practice of independent journalism by journalists.’’
According to media reports, on April 24, 2020, the Alokito Bangladesh authorities fired 21 journalists, officials, and other employees with separate letters. On the same day, GTV authorities terminated the jobs of several journalists, including two newsroom editors, without prior notice. Earlier, on April 2, 2020, the Alokito Bangladesh authorities stopped printing of the newspaper on the pretext of the coronavirus. The newspaper’s staff then said, the authorities took this decision without consulting them and without paying their dues. At that time, they also expressed fear of dismissal.
Faruq Faisel said, ‘‘The issue of personal safety and security of journalists is closely linked with a free and independent media system. The primary responsibility for the overall protection of employees must rest with the concerned media houses. There is no way they can avoid this responsibility.’’
Even in this crisis several media outlets are paying regular salaries to their staffs. To avoid corona infection and to continue publishing and broadcasting, they have introduced alternative measures including keeping necessary safety equipment in their offices. Staff is provided with the Work from Home arrangements.
Appreciating such initiatives, Mr. Faruq Faisel said, ‘‘Adequate safety and security must be ensured for those media personnel who are working in the field with the risk of corona infection. In addition, they must be provided with risk-allowance, medical treatment in case of illness, and safe transportation to and from the workplace in this vulnerable situation.”
The ARTICLE 19 has also called on all parties concerned, including the media houses, to come forward in this regard, the release said.