Bangladesh: No bar for journos to report on ongoing cases

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said there is no bar to reporting on ongoing cases but reporters cannot give personal opinions about the cases.

Law Minister Anisul Huq yesterday said there is no bar to reporting on ongoing cases but reporters cannot give personal opinions about the cases.

“In my opinion, the circular issued by Supreme Court authorities has not given any directive to stop reporting on ongoing cases. If you [reporters] come up with opinions about the ongoing cases, that will be a media trial and therefore, the learned judges concerned might feel pressured,” he said.

The law minister was talking to reporters after a meeting with the representatives from the United Nations, Switzerland, and Sweden at his secretariat office.

“I want to clearly say to you that the words ‘sub judice cases’ have a meaning. It means that the case is pending, but its trial proceedings are yet to start. I think the Supreme Court has talked about such cases in its circular,” said Anisul.

He said reporting and giving opinions would have to be separate.

“I think if you want clear opinions from the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court about the circular, they [judges of the Appellate Division] will give the same opinion,” the minister said.

He also said, “They [the judges] directly did not say anything about the circular, but I have learnt something from them.”

On Thursday, the SC administration issued a circular asking print and electronic media to refrain from reporting on ongoing cases at the court.

Md Golam Rabbani, registrar of the SC’s High Court Division, signed the circular saying, “It has been noticed recently that some electronic and print media are giv-ing scrolls or publishing news on ongoing cases, which is absolutely unexpected.

“Under the circumstances, it is being requested, upon orders, that all concerned refrain from publishing news or put up scrolls about ongoing cases,” the notice read.

Different journalists’ organisations urged the SC to withdraw the circular, saying that if an embargo is imposed on reports on ongoing cases, people will be deprived of information.

At the meeting with foreign delegates, the law minister yesterday said the government would take all steps so that the Digital Security Act is not misused.

The Digital Security Act was formulated to control cybercrimes, not to curtail the freedom of press, he added.

EDITORS GUILD REQUESTS CLARIFICATION
Editors Guild, Bangladesh, yesterday urged the SC Secretariat to clarify its instructions for the media.

It said like that of any other country, the media in Bangladesh reports on important and relevant exchanges between judges and lawyers during hearings of cases.

Such practice by the media has been going on for a long time. Therefore, why the issue of publishing such news has been termed “recent” is not clear, said a statement signed by Editors Guild, Bangladesh, President Toufique Imrose Khalidi.

The media cannot report on any ongoing cases if the SC instruction is to be followed. It can report only after the verdict of a case is delivered, it added.

Thus, the issue needs to be clarified so that the media can provide people with information. “However, we agree that the media should refrain from making any ob-servations or giving any opinions on court proceedings.”

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