Obstructors of the media and observers during elections may face two to seven years in prison as the government has given initial nod to amendments proposed by the Election Commission to the Representation of the People Order.
After the cabinet approved the amendments in principle in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday, Mahmudul Hossain Khan, cabinet secretary for coordination and reforms, said some corrections were necessary for the final approval of the amendments.
This will be effective in preventing those who are given cards by the Election Commission as observers and media workers.
If someone has legal permission to enter a polling station but is forcefully prevented, it will be considered an offence under the proposed amendments, he said.
Supporters of candidates sometimes attack journalists and vandalise cameras and other equipment to prevent the capture of evidence. Such activities will also be tried under the RPO after the amendment, the secretary said.
Apart from the protection of observers and journalists, the proposal for the RPO 2023 contains a total of 14 new clauses.
Candidates will need to submit a Tax Identification Number or TIN and tax returns with the nomination papers in addition to other documents once the amendments are passed.
The secretary also said that the proposed amendment includes changes to the provisions for returning officers. In the previous law, a single returning officer in each district was responsible for conducting the election of all parliamentary seats within the district.
The amendments propose the appointment of one returning officer in each constituency instead of each district.