Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Media continued to face a number of pressures in 2005, the most striking of which is the high level of violence directed against members of the press and the impunity enjoyed by those who attack them. Although the constitution provides for freedom of expression subject to "reasonable restrictions," the press is constrained by national security legislation as well as sedition and criminal libel laws. Journalists continue to be slapped with contempt of court and defamation charges or arrested under the 1974 Special Powers Act (which allows detentions of up to 90 days without trial) in reprisal for filing stories that are critical of government officials or policies. Editor and publisher Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who was arrested in November 2003 as he was about to depart the country to participate at a conference in Israel, was charged with sedition in February 2004 and spent 17 months in prison before being released in April 2005; however, the charges against him are still pending and his passport remains confiscated. Authorities also have reportedly limited official access to journalists from certain publications. The government remained sensitive to international scrutiny; foreign publications are subject to censorship, while foreign journalists and press freedom advocates have encountered increasing difficulties in obtaining visas to enter Bangladesh and are put under surveillance while in the country.
Journalists are regularly harassed and violently attacked by organized crime groups, political parties and their supporters, government authorities, and leftist and Islamist militant groups. Most commonly, they are subjected to such attacks as a result of their coverage of corruption, criminal activity, political violence, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, or human rights abuses. Police brutality towards photographers attempting to document protests or other political events also remained a concern. Two journalists were killed and over 140 injured during the year, while numerous others received death threats or were physically assaulted. In several instances, the offices of news outlets were attacked by unknown assailants. Impunity for those who perpetrate crimes against journalists is the norm, and investigations into the cases of reporters killed in previous years have not thus far yielded any convictions. As a result, many journalists practice some level of self-censorship.
With hundreds of daily and weekly publications, the privately owned print media continue to present an array of views, although political coverage at a number of newspapers is highly partisan. The state owns or influences a number of broadcast media outlets, whose coverage sometimes favors the ruling party. Private broadcast outlets are required to air government-produced news segments as a condition of their operation, and the new broadcast licenses that were issued in 2005 were allegedly given to those with close political connections, according to the U.S. State Department. Political considerations influence the distribution of government advertising revenue and subsidized newsprint, upon which many publications are dependent. Access to the internet is generally unrestricted; however, some journalists' e-mail is reportedly monitored by police.