Sunday, January 20, 2019 | ePaper

No law can restrict freedom of speech

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EDITORS' COUNCIL, an organisation of editors of the country's national dailies, has recently expressed grave concern over Section 21, 25, 28, 31, 32, and 43 of the Proposed Digital Security Act. It said the sections would greatly obstruct freedom of speech and independent journalism. However, responding to the concern the Law Minister has assured the Editors' Council of removing loopholes and vagueness in the Act which is now under scrutiny of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Post, Telecom and ICT. The Jatiya Sangsad body would sit for a meeting tomorrow (April 22).
The point now is that only time will tell how seriously the standing committee alters the controversial sections. If change occurs, the meeting's outcome will be fruitful or else it will be one of those many meetings where apprehensions were raised and discussed but had bear no fruit.  
Understandably, there is a scope for discussions with various stakeholders. The door is open. But by now there is hardly any point of the controversial Act which hasn't been discussed in details. Had the ruling party's politicians sincerely analysed and understood the concern, they would have first amended and then submit the draft law to the parliament. So, the meeting between the Law Minister and the Editors is least likely to bring about expected changes. In early February this year, the Editors' Council and national media outlets also called for involving the stakeholders in the process of formulating the new law. But their call was not taken seriously.
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. There is a 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. But the provisions of the DSA are greatly deviated from that focal point. We therefore urge the standing committee that the laws in proposed Act should be considered from a constitutional and international law standpoint.  
Otherwise, it would be known as a black law even if gets passed in the Parliament taking support of majority lawmakers to suppress freedom of speech by gagging the media.

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