Dialogue with Journalists as Human Rights Defenders

The two-day long workshop on “Dialogue with Journalists as Human Rights Defenders” took place from 24-25 April 2019, at Hotel Lake Breeze Gulshan. Sheepa Hafiza, Executive Director, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) made the opening remarks by welcoming the journalists. The workshop was arranged with the objective of working together with the journalists for the promotion and protection of Human Rights.

A total of 24 Journalists from 11 different districts throughout Bangladesh participated in the workshop, namely, Gaibandha, Potuakhali, Khulna, Barguna, Bagherhat, Bagura, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka, with the aim of promoting and protecting Human Rights through knowledge and experience sharing.

The 2-days workshop was divided into 6 different sessions highlighting various different issues that are necessary for every journalists and human rights defenders to know and was facilitated by experts on such issues.

The first session titled ‘Torture and Custodial Death: National and International Standards’ was facilitated by Barrister Sara Hossain, Honorary Executive Director, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST), and member, ASK. In this session, amongst others, she shared with the participants the domestic and international laws governing torture and the lack of implementation of the domestic law in Bangladesh. She also shared the scope of remedies available under both the standards. Moreover, the participants were given an understanding of the consistency or lack thereof of the domestic law, Torture and Custodial Death (Prevention) Act 2013 with the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, under which the domestic law was enacted, as stated in its Preamble.

The second session titled ‘Role of Journalists in Addressing Human Rights Violations’ was facilitated by Professor Saiful Alam Chowdhury, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka. Professor Saiful shared with the participants that journalists must have both a maximum and a minimum goal in maintaining the accuracy of news. He emphasised on the morality of the journalists in maintaining such accuracy. He also discouraged the participants from doing yellow journalism. In this session, the participants shared their concerns on the various obstacles they face during their journalistic activities.

The Third session of the workshop, titled ‘Uses of DNA Technology in Judicial System’ was facilitated by Abu Sufian, Scientific Officer, National Forensic DNA Profiling Laboratory, Dhaka Medical College (DMC). In this session, he shared with the participants the origin of the first use of on the various uses of DNA Technology in the Judicial System, such as using DNA Fingerprinting for the purpose of identifying a perpetrators from a list of suspects, identification of the paternal links of a child, or otherwise. He shared the achievement of the use of DNA Technology in identifying the numerous unidentified bodies of the Rana Plaza Tragedy.

Abu Ahmed Faijul Kabir, Senior Coordinator, Advocacy and Networking, ASK, in the final session titled, ‘Human Rights and Human Rights Defenders’, highlighted on what is Human Rights and who are the Human Rights Defenders and what their rights, duties and responsibilities are as per the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).

The fifth session of the workshop, titled, ‘Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Press’ was facilitated by Professor Gitiara Nasreen, Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, University of Dhaka. In this session, participants shared their own experience relating to the infringement of their right to freedom of expression and press.

The six and final session of the day, titled ‘Rohingya Crisis: What Next’ was facilitated by Meghna Guhathakurta, Executive Director, Research Initiatives Bangladesh and Member, ASK. She glossed over all the various crises governing the Rohingyas, both within the community as well as with the host communities living there.

The 2-days long workshop was brought to an end by the closing remarks of Nina Goswami, Senior Deputy Director, ASK, where she stated that journalists acting as human rights defenders shall continue to work together for the protection of the human rights of the people in Bangladesh and provide support to the victims of human rights violations.