Bangladesh set up a Press Council in 1974. It has since issued a code of practice in 1993 with the following preamble: “The war of liberation, its spirit and ideals must be sustained and upheld, and anything repugnant relative to the war of liberation and its spirit and ideals must not be printed, published or disseminated in any manner by the press”. This clause leaves a great deal of room for subjective interpretations and there continue to be serious differences within the media on how the legacy of the Bangladesh war of liberation should be interpreted.
The Bangladesh Press Council consists of a chairman, who is typically a retired judge of the high court, and fourteen members. The media community is represented by nine members, equally representing the three groups of working journalists, editors and owners. Two members of parliament and three representing the literary community, the bar and the educational sector, complete the membership of the council.
In Bangladesh’s fiercely competitive political environment, the Press Council, which only has powers of censure and admonishment, has been less favoured as a forum of grievance redressal. Most complaints are lodged with the magistracy by individuals seeking quick and drastic remedies.
Newspapers are obliged under applicable law, to publish Press Council rulings in entirety. But this provision is very rarely honoured.
Article 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh is titled “Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech”. It states:
(1) "Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech, is guaranteed."
(2) "Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
1. the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and
2. freedom of the press, are guaranteed.