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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Freedom of expression is a must for a free nation

WE welcome the United Nation's call for an urgent revision of the Digital Security Act in a bid to ensure checks and balances against arbitrary arrests and other undue restrictions.  Newspapers reported that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has drawn serious concerns over press freedom and the right to freedom of expression and modify the Act to align with international human rights law to provide checks and balances against arbitrary arrest, detention, and other undue restrictions of the rights of individuals to the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression and opinion.
The government has devised the Act as a shield to control the political sphere and anti-government political campaign, research and investigative journalism and people's criticism. It will not only restrict free expression but also restrict the Constitutional rights of people.
The UN observed that the Act could have a severe impact on the work of journalists, bloggers, commentators and historians and also penalises the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression by any other individual, including on social media. The law contains vague provisions that could impose long-term prison sentences of up to seven years or a fine for any statement posted online that might disrupt the law and order situation, hurt religious feelings or ruin communal harmony.
The Act gives the police wide powers of search and arrest without warrant. Many of the offences in the Act are unbailable. The law stands against Bangladesh's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Despite pledges by the concerned circles and Editors' Council to amend the problematic provisions, President Abdul Hamid on Monday signed it.
We call upon the government to bin the law immediately. By throttling people's expression and criticism, no arbitrary authority could continue in power for an uncertain period.