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Community radio will be set up in every upazilla-Information Minister

“Ministry of Information will take initiatives to and will consider limited commercial advertisement for survival of community radios soon’’ said Mr. Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, Hon’ble Minister; Ministry of Information, spoke on the closing meeting to share achievements of the project Pioneering, Connecting & Empowering Voices for Change –Strengthening Community Radio in Bangladesh to fight Poverty and Promote Development.’’ as the Chief Guest on 28 May’15 at IDB Conference room of the city. The project was implemented, for a period of 28 months, by Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC) and Free Press Unlimited (The Netherlands) under the support of European Union. In accordance with its strategy to promote an inclusive and empowered society in Bangladesh, the European Union supported the project for the period February 2013 – May 2015 for strengthening community radio across the country to produce and broadcast informative programs and enable communities to participate actively in dialogue and initiatives for development and poverty reduction.

The Minister also said, `Ministry of Information will consider limited commercial advertisements, community radio fund and strengthening community radio policy soon for sustainability of community radios in Bangladesh. As a result 488 upazilla will be covered by community radio operation in future.”

Speaking as the Special Guest Mr. Martuza Ahmed, Hon’ble Secretary, Ministry of Information, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh said, “Community Radios in Bangladesh have been working to ensure Right to Information for marginalized people for their empowerment as well as to reflect those information to the government and other policymakers of the country. It creates aiding environment to transparency and accountability”.

He appreciated the attendance of the event and pleased to see numerical data on women journalists, producers for community radio on the basis of gender equality. “I do believe that, the recent award achievement of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on gender equity is really a part of activities of Community Radio Stations”, he added. Mr. Martuza also expressed his deep satisfaction on the present role of community radio on fulfillment of MDG goals, digital Bangladesh and expected continuation of these activities in future.

Kazi Akhtar Uddin Ahmed, Director General [Additional Secretary] Bangladesh Betar & Chairperson, Community Radio Related Central Monitoring Committee, Ministry of Information was also present as Special Guests. In his short speech Mr. Ahmed said, “The present government is trying to create enabling environment for sustainability of community radio stations. He also emphasized on information sharing about programs among media landscapes of the country to avoid mismatch and overlap. He stressed on establishing mechanism to coordinate support and cooperation of other media professionals for more achievements in future.

Mr. Frédéric Maduraud, Minister Counsellor, Head of Political, Economic, Trade, Press and Information Section, European Union, Delegation to Bangladesh and Mr. Henrick van Asch, First Secretary Political and Economic Affairs of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Dhaka, also attended in the programme as Guest of Honor.

Mr. Frédéric said, “ the Community Radio project is an important example of the powerful effect of an environment that fosters and protects the right to information, the freedom of expression and freedom of the media. He expressed his deep concern on harassment of journalists, human right defenders, attacking and killing bloggers etc. in recent days in Bangladesh.

Mr. Frédéric said, “ Today the main challenges to the decision makers and the civil society is to find the right balance between protecting freedoms and ensuring public security from the propagation of hate speech, cyber-crime and terrorism”.

“The European Union opposes any unjustified restrictions on the internet and other media and stands ready to deepen it’s cooperation with Bangladesh to ensure appropriate legal system and policy environment as effective safeguard”, he added.

Mr. Henrick van Asch, said, “Right to Information, Freedom from hunger and poverty is basic needs for every citizen of the country. The sixteen community radios in Bangladesh have been working for those aiming to diminish break/divides between rural and urban lives which is praiseworthy.”He expressed his expectation that, community radio would be more dynamic contributor for free flow of information through broadcasted news, progammes etc. for the proper and sustainable development of sidelined citizens in Bangladesh.

Mr.Ashish Sen, renowned community media expert from India, shared the preliminary findings on the achievements and challenges of the project. Around 150 representatives from different GOs and NGOs, development partners, rural women journalists, academic institutions, print and electronic media houses participated on the event.

Ms. Dessi Damianova, Program Manager (South Asia), Free Press Unlimited delivered speech on project achievements and lessons learned as well as future direction. She described about shared values and beliefs of Free Press Unlimited and community radios of the projects on the ground of EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Underlining broadcasting area, hour and audiences, youth involvement etc. she also emphasized on expanding spaces for community radio stations as well as rural communities

Mr. Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, Chairperson, BNNRC Board of Trust & Executive Director – COAST Trust chaired and moderated the meeting while Chief Executive Officer of BNNRC AHM Bazlur Rahman gave welcome speech. The discussion session was shared with a video documentary on project performance. A photo exhibition was also organized around the program premise highlighting the achievements of the project.