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   1 Abul Mansur Ahmed   Communication and Culture York University  Freedom of the Press and its Constraints : A Study of Press Regulations in Bangladesh Abstract The Indian sub continent state of Bangladesh is just one of a number of developing nations that has yet to come to grips with the concept of liberalism and its co companion a free and open press. Restrictions on press activity in that nation began with the British and the occupation by the East India Company some two centuries ago. Since independence in 1947, there have been waves of freedom for the press and subsequent clamp downs by various regimes under various political stripes. This paper investigates both the history of the press in that part of Asia and documents the behavior of the authorities toward press activity in Bangladesh. Introduction South Asian countries have had a variable democratic history since their respective emergences from British colonial rule in the late 1940s. It was reflected in the region’s  political diversity such as monarchical rule in Nepal, long-running civil war in Sri Lanka, alternating military and civilian regimes in Bangladesh and Pakistan, and India’s established democratic system. 1  The wave of democratization that swept across South Asia in late1980s and early1990s heralded a resurgence of the debate on press freedom. As Bangladesh started its democratization process through the transition from military rule to civilian rule in late 1990s, the fundamental relationship between freedom of the press and emerging democracy was realized and integrated in the debates that the growth of democratic institutions depends upon an independent press because it is he press which   2 can pursue democratic goals and objectives only in the ways that are permitted by the environment in which they operate. Davis asserts that ‘restrictions on the press which hamper the press’s functioning are believed also to hamper the functioning of the democratic system itself’. 2  The primary goal of this paper is to focus on the nature and operation of press regulations in Bangladesh. The majority of the regulations used to limit press freedom in Bangladesh have their srcins in the colonial period. During the process of decolonization, the major governing instruments were retained and are available to the Bangladesh government for control of the press. This study is historical and archival in nature and seeks to investigate how these regulations limit media freedom and how they impinge on the media’s roles in advancing the interests of democracy. In this regard, this study examines only key press regulations in Bangladesh. Salam states that press freedom is valued in democracy because of the inherent value it has in safeguarding democracy. There is an intricate link between democracy and  press freedom. Legal constraints are presently a tropical issue to the nature and composition of the media fraternity in Bangladesh. Successive governments in the country have moved to consolidate power and to promote policies which were retained from the colonial period in a number of statutes. 3  Most of the current laws were passed during the British colonial regime. Hence their intentions are not necessarily suitable for a society striving for democracy. Some laws have a tendency to prevent disclosure of information embarrassing to the government, information that has nothing to do with state security or public order. In this regard,   3 scholars should not ignore those laws which can in effect perform the function of major  press regulations such as Official Secrets Act, The Special Powers Act, The Printing Presses and Publication Act, The Code of Criminal Procedure, The Penal Code and so forth. Methods of Data Collection & Analysis I) Document Analysis This study is based on document analysis in its broader perspective. I applied archival research on the use of secondary sources, sometimes combined with primary sources in order to examine documents such as ordinances, executive orders, Acts, specific amendments, enactments, press or legal review concerning press regulations. I also spent a considerable time in the analysis of government documents, especially those, which relate to the legal doctrine of a free press, the law and the government reports.   II) Textual Analysis The task of this analysis is to bring out the whole range of possible meanings which could possibly be discovered in certain sections or provisions of each key regulation related to press control. Some theorists like Kracauer (quoted in Jensen & Jankowski) 4  argue that the content of any text under analysis must be conceived as a meaningful whole and that analysis involves an act of interpretation based on fact. In this regard, the technique involves hermeneutical interpretation in analyzing legal documents which does not need prior knowledge of the subject. Kvale states that hermeneutics is the study of the interpretation of texts. 5  In this case a text should be understood on the basis of its own frame of reference, by explicating what the text itself states about a theme. 6  The purpose of the method is to obtain   4 a common understanding of the meaning of the text. The method will be used to determine what the regulations or texts say with regard to press control. Radnitzky (quoted in Kvale) 7  identifies five canons of interpretation. Of most importance to this study is the method which he calls the autonomy of the text. In this case a text should be understood on the basis of its own frame of reference, by explicating what the text itself states about a theme. The method of analysis means that the interpretation should stick to the content of the text. This method of interpretation does not need prior knowledge of the subject. Another method that Radnitzky discusses involves contextualization of the text. The method of contextualization was adapted to this case because of its relevance to the research questions. In what context were the laws enacted and in what context are they implemented? In the interpretation of legal text, questions have been forwarded, such as whether it is  justifiable in the interpretation of law to ask about the intentions of the srcinal lawmakers or whether one should interpret law as it functions today. 8  In this study the interpretation takes into account both points of view. The study simultaneously focuses on the content of the law and the context of formulating and applying the law. It is essential that in analyzing the present application of the law, its historical meaning should also be treated with respect. Two questions with regard to law are paramount. What was the srcinal intent of the colonial regime when it enacted the law? Secondly, what problems emanate from the use of  pre-independence law in a post-independence situation?
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