Tuesday, December 20, 2011

'No irresponsible free speech'

Dhaka, Dec 20
The editor-in-chief of has given a call for guidelines to set the standards for public discourse on social media alongside regulating news media, who are perceived to be frequently testing the limits. 

"Speech must be responsible to be free. There is a social and cultural necessity for freedom of responsible speech," Toufique Imrose Khalidi said at a programme to celebrate the Internet newspaper's fifth anniversary. 

"(But) there has to be some discipline in the way the state manages the media. The decision makers must be guided by reason," he added at the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel in Dhaka on Tuesday evening. 

Besides presenting's current activities and future plans, he also spoke about crisis and possibilities of presenting news on the Internet. 

Policymakers in the government, judges, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, poets, sportsmen, top army officers, cultural activists — leading personalities from the entire spectrum of society are attending the programme. 

Launched in 2006, the first online newspaper has become one of the most reliable and authentic sources of news. Organiers say it is "a fantastic opportunity" to reflect on's role as a pioneer and innovator. 

It offers a range of real-time news coverage for online readers replete with critical information to pick and click; it gathers and delivers news, based on accuracy and consistency on the web 24 hours, with the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and ethical journalism. says their newsroom never sleeps. 

Readers hit nearly 40 million times on several pages of the website every month. The site is hit from 300,000 IP addresses daily; sometimes the figure goes as high as 500,000. 

Khalidi gave a brief glimpse of's operations. Photos and videos were also shown. 

A beta version of was launched by legendary woman freedom fighter Khurshid Jahan Begum. 

Khurshid Jahan was one of the thousands who joined the war of independence in 1971 with a five-month infant in her arms, and 40 years on, she hit the headlines when ran a report on her on the 40th Victory Day. 

Khalidi, also the managing director of the owning company, called on authorities for "faster and cheaper Internet that almost the rest of the world has got already". 

"And we guarantee a great rate of return on the investment. The power of Internet is such that it can combine all attributes of all the other media. 

"We have introduced some video and audio but could have done better," he added. 

Referring to the editorial gatekeeping of the online news portal that even extends to its blogs, he said it is true that there is "certainly a greater degree of freedom on blogs". 

But Khalidi advocated for media checks and balance. 

"I am sorry I am not a great supporter of absolutely free speech as some bloggers try to advocate," he told a select audience of public policymakers, judges, lawyers, politicians, businessmen, entrepreneurs, poets, sportsmen, top army officers, cultural activists. 

"What we see on blogs here in Bangladesh is the result of poor decision-making by the powers that be at various points in our history. I say this today because a very senior politician has recently raised this point. 

"I agree with him, but I also ask him to take part of the collective blame for failing to behave responsibly as a decision maker. 

"I agree with this view that the dream of absolute free speech is a delusion. This is a myth no society has ever granted. 

Khalidi warned that the political class is at the risk of paying "the heaviest price" if the "media scene continues to remain as unruly as it has been for quite some time now".   

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