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Bangladesh anti-corruption watchdog slaps restrictions on media

Publication Date : 29-06-2012

 

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Bangladesh yesterday officially imposed a ban on media access to its offices.

Some top-ranking ACC officials seeking anonymity told The Daily Star that the ACC authorities had been forced to take such a decision upon directives from government high-ups and pressure from several influential sections.

Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Muhammad Zamir partially disagreed with the ACC move while Chairman of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Board of Trustees Sultana Kamal termed it a contradictory decision.

The move came at time when the ACC is investigating an alleged scam in the much-talked-about Padma Bridge project involving the names of some influential persons of the government, and a team of Royal Canadian Mounted Police is currently in Dhaka to discuss with the ACC its findings on the allegations.

On Wednesday, the ACC imposed restrictions on the media's access to its offices when security men and police at the gate did not let in journalists of the print and electronic media to talk to the authorities on different issues.

The anti-graft body imposed the restriction as it wanted to keep journalists away from its ongoing investigation into the alleged corruption in the bridge project, sources at the ACC said.

Earlier, the ACC building at Segunbagicha was open for journalists during office hours when they needed any information from its officials.

Regarding the media ban, ACC's Public Relations Officer Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya yesterday distributed a notice among journalists waiting outside the main entrance of the ACC office.

The notice reads: the ACC has formulated the Information Release Policy 2011 for providing information. According to the policy, the PRO will collect questions from reporters within 10:30 a.m. and provide answers to them around 4:00 p.m. every day.

Journalists will be able to enter the ACC office only if the commission invites them. Otherwise, there is no scope for newsmen to enter the office, the notice reads.

Contacted, CIC Zamir said, "In principle, they [ACC] have done nothing wrong. Legally and constitutionally they are quite right. They have not violated the law."

He appreciated the decision of providing information according to the policy, but said, "It would have been better if they had framed the new policy after discussions with the journalists."

He, however, said, "A controversy is feared as the media wants information on the real crime."

Terming the ACC's decision contradictory with its activities, Sultana Kamal, Executive Director of legal aid organisation Ain O Salish Kendra and a former adviser of the country's caretaker government, said she was not surprised at the ACC's decision.

The rights activist told The Daily Star she had been noticing that the ACC Chairman was acting in mysterious manner.

ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman on Wednesday told The Daily Star over the phone, "…the journalists are obstructing our investigations."

Asked about the reason behind the restriction, ACC Commissioner Mohammad Sahabuddin Chuppu the same day said, "The media

have published many confusing reports citing unconfirmed sources. We often send rejoinders to the reports, but many media houses do not publish our statements properly."

 

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