No one has the authority to take away the freedom of expression, says the chief of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
“No one has been given the power to take away the freedom of expression. The right to express one’s opinion is a universal right.
“But freedom of expression does not mean hurting others. In this case, every citizen is expected to behave responsibly,” NHRC Chairman Nasima Begum said.
Her remarks came at a joint meeting hosted by the NHRC and international human rights organization ARTICLE 19, which works to protect freedom of expression.
The meeting was held online on Sunday under a memorandum of understanding between the two organizations, said a press release.
Nasima was chief guest at this event while Kazi Reazul Hoque, former chairman of the NHRC, was guest of honor. The event was chaired by Faruq Faisel, regional director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia.
Implementation progress of the project, ‘Securing Safeguards for Media Workers in Bangladesh,’ implemented by ARTICLE 19 with funding from the Embassy of Denmark, was highlighted at the event.
In her speech as chief guest, Nasima emphasized the need for public-private initiatives for the protection and promotion of human rights in the country.
She said: “He who commits corruption or conceals information does so in violation of the rights of others.”
Former NHRC chairman Reazul stated: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. It is a constitutional duty to protect this right.
“Therefore, the protection of those who exercise this right, including journalists, must be ensured. At the same time, it is necessary to create an environment where the media can work independently.”
Faruq Faisel in his speech said the personal safety and security of journalists is inseparably linked with a free and independent media environment.
“In South Asia, Bangladesh lags behind in terms of security of media workers and freedom of expression,” he mentioned.
Faruq continued: “This situation has tarnished the progress of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Bangladesh. The 16th goal of the SDGs is to establish good governance, such as peace, justice, strong institutions, and inclusive society.
“To achieve this goal, it is important to ensure freedom of expression as a whole.”
Rajshahi University Professor of Mass Communication and Journalism, and ARTICLE 19 Project Consultant Dr Pradip Kumar Panday, Supreme Court lawyer Mahabubul Islam, human rights researcher Dr AKM Saifullah, and several officials of both ARTICLE 19 and the NHRC, also participated in the meeting.
At the beginning of the program, peace and prayers were sought for the departed souls of the victims of Covid-19, and those killed in the blast at a mosque in Narayanganj. The NHRC chairman also called for swift investigation and action against the culprits if any evidence of negligence is found with regard to the blast.