Media freedom, the need for a new broadcasting policy, and the safety of journalists in Bangladesh have been on the agenda for delegates from the International Press Institute (IPI) and the country's prime minister and government officials.
At least 24 journalists have been killed in Bangladesh since 1998, according to delegate Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, IPI board member and chairman of the IPI Bangladesh National Committee. None of those responsible has yet been brought to justice.
On 11 February this year, Sagar Sarwar, news editor of the private TV station Massranga and his wife Mehrun Runi, senior reporter with ATN Bangla Television, were stabbed to death in their home in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.
The attack prompted a countrywide hunger strike on 1 March by journalists, who have now called for a rally in Dhaka on 18 March to press for the arrest of the killers.
IPI delegates also stressed the importance of prosecuting the murderers during a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 28 February, which also covered improvements in media freedom.
The administration's repeal of the Emergency Powers Rules (2007), which allowed police to arrest journalists in their newsrooms without a court warrant was, however, welcomed by IPI delegates.
"We are very pleased at the advancements that have been made in Bangladesh in terms of press freedom and are looking forward to continuing our work in the country," said Alison Bethel McKenzie, executive director, IPI. "We do however remain concerned about the recent murder of Sagar Sarwar and Mehrun Runi and the failure, after ten years, to capture any of those who have committed crimes against the nation's media."
During a subsequent meeting with Information Minister Abul Kalam Azad and Chief Information Commissioner Ambassador Zamir, the IPI delegates also discussed the ongoing implementation of the Right to Information Act (2009), and what the body calls 'the urgent need to adopt a broadcasting policy' to establish an independent regulatory body for the sector.
Bethel McKenzie stressed the need to ensure consultation with the media while drafting the broadcasting law. IPI has offered to provide advice to ensure that laws affecting broadcasters are in line with international standards of press freedom and ensure broad access to information from different sources.
Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, who is also chief executive of the Boishakhi TV station, said: "in order to fight attacks, threats, killings and harassment journalists need to be well-prepared through training on ethical, responsible and professional journalism, as well as be united. We welcome the IPI mission to Bangladesh and call on IPI to support efforts by journalists in the country to improve their professional skills."