Sunday, January 20, 2019 | ePaper

TIB urges govt not to pass Digital Security Bill

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Staff Reporter :
Transparency International Bangladesh has urged the government not to pass such a bill that is suicidal and goes against the principles of the constitution.
In a statement issued today, it expressed frustration over finalising a report by a parliamentary body on Digital Security Bill, 2018 without considering most of the recommendations of stakeholders and amending some sections that curb freedom of speech and independent journalism.
On Tuesday, the parliamentary standing committee on post, telecom and ICT ministry finalised its report on the much-debated bill.
"The incident of finalising the report on the bill without changing the controversial sections and ignoring stakeholder's opinions is a matter of concern," said Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, the Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based graft watchdog.
The concerns voiced by the journalists on sections 8, 28, 29 and 31 were ignored in the bill and it will pose risks for them to discharge their profession duties, he said.
The sections deal with hurting religious values, disrupting public order, dishing out defaming information and causing law and order deterioration through publishing anything in website or electronic form.
TIB executive director said the recommendation made by the committee on the controversial section 32 is also regrettable.
The committee recommended renaming the offence of "computer or digital spying" as "violating state secrecy" under section 32 and incorporating Official Secrets Act, 1923.
Iftekharuzzaman said the legal right to get the information on corruption and human rights violation as per the Right to Information 2009 Act will be curbed due to the misuse of section 32.
"Therefore, corruption and crimes relating to human rights violation will spread further," he said, adding that the section would act as the major impediment for doing investigative journalism and conducting research activities.
If the bill is passed into law, he said, it will go against main spirit of the constitution and restrict free-thinking, freedom of speech and freedom of expression. It will also impede independent journalism, he added.
"A sense of insecurity will be created among the citizens in the name of digital security," he said.
TIB hoped that the government and the Jatiya Sangsad will refrain from "taking the suicidal path" and create further scope to have discussion with the stakeholders on it.
The possibilities of ensuring good governance and curbing corruption, created by the growth of information technology, will face a setback due to the proposed law, the TIB statement said, adding it will also limit the role of citizens, civil society and media in achieving the sustainable goals.
The bill was placed in parliament on April 9 amid growing concerns among journalists and rights activists that freedom of the press and expression would be seriously jeopardised if the bill was passed as it was.

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