Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | ePaper

Digital Security Act Bill placed in JS without amendments

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DESPITE our repeated plea and penning about the issue - the much controversial Digital Security Bill-2018 was placed in the Parliament on Monday night by Telecom and ICT Minister. The proposed law was then sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry concerned for scrutinizing. The committee is expected to submit a report on the Bill in about four week's time.
Not surprisingly, the Bill is placed exactly a week after the Indian Prime Minister's order to withdraw of rules to punish journalists for distributing fake news in India. However, given the abundance of writings, analysis and risk factors provided by numerous scholars, law experts and journalists, in reality, there is hardly any point left of the controversial Bill which is in need of careful scrutiny. Even the growing concern of locally stationed diplomats was not taken into serious consideration.
Most importantly, the government on several occasions said Section 57 of the ICT Act would be removed that deals with defamation, hurting religious sentiments, causing deterioration of law and order and instigating against any person or organisation through publishing or transmitting any material in websites or in electronic form. They were not removed from the proposed Draft Law.
However, the ball to get the bill passed is now in the court of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, and we can only hope the standing committee to apply the best of its senses and logic to amend the controversial sections. In fact, the standing committee can also take helpful advice while scrutinising it by incorporating all stakeholders.
Our point is, we all agree that the law should be carefully framed so that privacy of critical and sensitive data is properly maintained without jeopardizing the freedom of expression. In justifying the draft DSA the new ICT Minister has reminded us that journalists have 'conditional freedom' and 'violating privacy is unacceptable' - two more obscure terms.
While there is little to dispute the fact that no freedom can be unrestrained, we should once more remind that such restraints should be clear, logical and proportionate, which the provisions of the DSA greatly deviate from, and urge the standing committee that the laws in proposed Act should be considered from a constitutional and international law standpoint, otherwise it would only get passed as a 'Digital Insecurity Act' to suppress freedom of speech in Bangladesh.


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