Speakers at a roundtable discussion criticised the US visa policy for media, saying that it would rather create a reign of fear instead of a free space for freedom of the press.
The roundtable discussion titled 'Media under visa policy, politics under visa policy' organised by The Editors Guild, Bangladesh on Saturday at Dhaka Gallery in the capital.
"The US visa policy may create a reign of fear among the media," said Ekattor Television's chief editor Mozammel Babu, who moderated the discussion.
Speaking at the event, Sharmeen Murshid, chief executive officer of the election observation group "Brotee" raised a question, "Does America truly represent democracy, or does it advocate for its own interests?
"Historically, the United States has not supported democracy solely out of self-interest. Now, their interests align with geopolitical factors, and their democratic rhetoric also resonates with the demands of most Bangladeshis. They are singing the same tune."
Noting Bangladesh's high global image, Sharmeen Murshid said, "I have not thought of comparing Bangladesh to Nigeria, Cambodia, Ethiopia, or Liberia. We must assess our role - the media's role - in how we have gotten here. Clearly, Bangladeshi media is politically biased."
The election observer also criticised Ekattor Television and other television stations' approach to talk shows, guest selection, and questioning.
"It's as if they have an agenda to push, and I've been cornered on several occasions. They invite a group of like-minded guests on one side and make one a scapegoat. It appears that they are forcing someone to confess to something," she added.
Abed Khan, a senior journalist and chief editor of the daily Kalbela, said, "The sudden imposition of a visa policy seems rather perplexing. Why have we accepted it or even engaged in discussions about it? If we wish not to prioritise it, perhaps it would be wiser to simply disregard it. I fail to comprehend why we should involve ourselves with the US or why they are intervening in our politics."
In his speech, senior journalist Shaukat Mahmood opined that there is no space for media freedom in the country now.
"How could the visa policy affect press freedom when there is already no freedom for the press or journalism? Many journalists have had to flee the country for reporting on vote rigging," Shaukat said.
Nayeemul Islam Khan, emeritus editor of the daily Amader Natun Shomoy, remarked that publishing anyone's name on a speculative list of visa-restricted individuals is both defamatory and baseless.
"I am definitely in favour of disregarding it. It remains unconfirmed and unclear whether the visa policy supports freedom of expression or benefits the media in any way. When he [US envoy] mentioned 'media,' did he refer to social media by the word? What role can the media play in guaranteeing free and fair elections?" he further questioned.
Rejoanul Haq Raja, head of news at Machranga TV, asserted that the imposition of the visa policy came as a consequence of the back-and-forth statements made by journalists and editors during the Yunus case.
"Why was the election issue dragged into the Nobel laureates' statement in support of Yunus' case? The visa policy is a pressure tactic rather than a support for democracy. The same pressure is also being applied to the media, which some media outlets have already welcomed."
Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador and chief information officer of Bangladesh and former diplomat Munshi Fayez Ahmed were also present at the discussion.