Bangladesh on Thursday issued new directives dropping mass media from the list of emergency services that would remain out of the purview of the transport shutdown and restriction of movement imposed to check transmission of coronavirus.
The government, however, in its two earlier circulars issued on April 1 and April 5 included mass media on the list of emergency services and kept the sector out of the purview of shutdown.
Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists faction president Molla Jalal told New Age on Thursday that the issue created confusion as it was not clear whether the mass media and journalists would remain out of the purview of the shutdown or the government had decided to exclude newspaper from the emergency services.
If the government decides to exclude newspapers from the list, it would be suicidal and if the journalists are not allowed to move freely, there would be lack of information and the country would be badly affected by rumours, he said.
‘Even during wars, movement of journalists are not restricted by formulating laws,’ he said, demanding immediate correction of the circular keeping newspapers on the list of emergency services.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister’s Office issued directives outlining that people and vehicles associated with emergency services and supply chain will remain out of the purview of the transport shutdown and restriction of movement imposed to check transmission of coronavirus.
‘To keep the emergency services and the supply chain as normal as possible, the following services will continue during the general holidays, movement restriction and any other preventive measure declared by the government in a bid to tackle coronavirus (Covid-19),’ said a PMO notification signed by principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus.
The services are ‘(a) emergency services like electricity, water, gas, fire service, cleanliness activities, telephone and internet as well as vehicles and people associated with them, (b) vehicles and people of healthcare services and transporting medical equipment, including medicines, (c) vehicles and the people related to the pharmaceutical industry, (d) vehicles and people engaged in transporting essential goods, food grains, baby food, milk and dairy products and animal fodder, (e) vehicles and the people engaged in transporting agricultural products, fertilisers, insecticides, energy etc, (f) vehicles and people involved in producing and transporting basic products for livelihood including, agricultural goods, fisheries and livestock, dairy products and foodstuffs, (g) vehicles and the people engaged in the aforesaid services-related maintenance.’
The notification, however, said the directives issued by the Cabinet Division and the Public Administration Ministry regarding the general holiday, weekly holiday and the restriction on movement of the people will remain effective as usual.
The government on March 25 declared public holiday from March 26 to April 4 aiming to prevent coronavirus spread. Due to the situation, the holidays were extended until April 14.
State-run news agency Bangladesh Sangstha ran a report on March 25 stating that the government requested all to facilitate mass media people during the holiday. It referred to an official handout that stated that health services, mass media and other emergency services would not be under the purview of the holiday.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s deputy press secretary Ashraful Alam said that section two of the circular mentions that the previous orders issued by the cabinet division and the public administration ministry, where media was mentioned, will remain effective.
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