In the midst of a pandemic, a free press matters more than ever

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Time and time again, journalists in Bangladesh find themselves under fire simply for doing their jobs

These are worrying times that we are currently going through.

With infection and death rates due to Covid-19 changing minute by minute, and with many industries at a standstill and the rhythms of our everyday lives adversely affected, there has never been greater demand for reliable, up-to-date information that helps people make sense of what is going on around them.

With the rampant circulation of rumours, there is also the need to clear up the fog of confusion, and set the record straight.

Therefore, now, more than ever, we need the press to be able to do its job without any kind of hindrance. A free press is the cornerstone of any democracy, but it has a particularly urgent role to play during a pandemic such as the one we are currently experiencing.

To that end, it is indeed disappointing to see that Bangladesh has ranked in 151st out of 180 countries in this year’s World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders. This is a drop of one slot from last year — not a desirable trend.

Time and time again, journalists in Bangladesh find themselves under fire simply for doing their jobs. Our draconian laws create a climate of fear, and as a result many media outlets have to resort to self-censorship when all they really wish to do is report the truth.

A free press is not the enemy, and as such, we hope the government supports the work of journalists who put themselves at risk every day to bring news to the public. Those who provide this valuable service should be respected and rewarded, not punished.