Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has called upon the government to ensure conducive environment for a free and unrestricted press as an indispensable precondition for constitutional rights of citizens and democratic accountability.
In the interest of access to information and public awareness, the government and other stakeholders must protect professional freedom and health safety of media workers, the anticorruption watchdog said.
The government must ensure that media institutions remain functional, TIB said in a statement issued on Saturday to mark the World Press Freedom Day 2020, observed on May 3.
TIB condemned that media workers reporting on corruption, theft, extortion and swindling of relief goods by a section of public representatives and other politically linked influential people are being subjected to self-censorship by various predicaments, harassment, intimidation, physical abuse, torture, disappearance and arbitrary arrests under the digital security act.
Such self-defeating acts must be stopped for effective management of the coronavirus crisis, TIB stated.
"The World Press Freedom Day this year is of much greater importance than ever," said TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman.
"Free media is the most important catalyst to control illicit designs of those who are out to convert the Covid-19 pandemic into a festival of corruption. Media must be free to report not only on corruption and irregularities in relief operation on the ground," he added.
Iftekharuzzaman further said it will be self-defeating to create any predicament against media from discharging their professional role of information disclosure freely and safely.
"Don't control or harass media, control corruption," he said.
TIB called upon the government to bring to justice those responsible for intimidation, physical abuse, torture, disappearance as well as arrests of journalists.
In the absence of free flow of information, not only will the people be confused and panicked, but also the government plan for management and recovery from the fallout of the crisis and its implementation be misinformed, inappropriate and distorted, TIB said.
The statement also called upon the media organisations and professionals to uphold the highest standards of ethical, objective and professional practices in discharging their roles.