Dialogue with Journalists and Human Rights Defenders

Journalists Reiterate their Commitment to Promote and Protect Human Rights along with Human Rights Defenders

While it is the Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) who stand up fighting against the violations of Human Rights, suffering along the way facing several violations themselves, the journalists also play a vital role in aiding into the work of HRDs. To a certain extent, the journalists can also be termed as human rights defenders. This was shared by Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) when she made the opening speech in the two day long workshop on “Dialogue with Journalists and Human Rights Defenders” which took place from 16-17 September 2018, at Innotel Hotel in Banani.

This workshop was with journalists from 9 different districts throughout Bangladesh, namely, Joypurhat, Potuakhali, Bagherhat, Zinaidah, Bogura, Rajshahi, Chapainowabganj, Dinajpur, Dhaka, with the aim of promoting and protecting Human Rights through knowledge and experience sharing.

In the introductory session, Nina Goswami, Senior Deputy Director, ASK, opined that human right defenders must do all what they can within the legal framework, using the legal weapon for protection.

Abu Ahmed Faijul Kabir, Coordinator, ASK, highlighted on what Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders are and what their rights, duties and responsibilities are as per the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

Tamanna Hoq Riti, Assistant Coordinator, ASK, updated the participants with the third cycle of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where it was shared that of all the recommendations that were made to the government of Bangladesh, 60 were noted, 23 are pending for further review, all of which related to the revision of media laws, decriminalization of defamation, prosecution of violence against human rights defenders, acknowledging the rights of the LGBT people, addressing impunity for rights violations by security agencies and abolishing death penalty.

The participants of the workshop also shared their experience on dealing with four major human rights issues i.e. extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance, strange cases, violence against children and women and rights of the minorities.

Experts like Saiful Alam Chowdhury, Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication & Journalism, University of Dhaka, took a session on “Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Press”; Dr. Sohel Mahmud, presented on the topic of Medical Jurisprudence and Forensics in the legal field; and Ashish Kumar Mazumdar, Scientific Officer, National Forensic, DNA Profiling Laboratory, Dhaka Medical College presented on the uses of DNA Technology in Judiciary System, sharing with the participants how DNA profiling is done, breaking it down to the basics.

The two-day workshop ended with a Session on “Working together for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights”,  where the participants were asked to share the various human rights violations each district faces before, during and after the election; and what can be done by the journalists and the human rights defenders on that aspect.

According to all the participants, the most abused and vulnerable group of people during, before and after the election are the minority groups, especially, the religious and the ethnic minorities in the respective areas. The violations range from inducing fear amongst the people to land grabbing to barring them from voting, or even entering the voting centre during the election. The level of arbitrary/mass arrest, institution of fake cases, harassment against journalists, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings also increase during these times.

On this note, the journalists agreed to increase their level of communication with the human rights defenders, and report all types of human rights violations that take place during the time of election as soon as it happens to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) and requested them to take immediate action. Subsequently, ASK has also assured to communicate the concerned authority for immediate response to any concern the journalists and local human rights defenders’ raises.

At her closing remarks, Nina Goswami mentioned that even though ASK does not specifically monitor election procedure as it does not fall under its mandate, but they will be closely looking into and monitoring the violations of minority rights  that take place during the time of election.