CPJ urges Bangladesh president to return Digital Security Act to JS for revision
M Humayun Kabir: Expressing deep concern about Digital Security Act which was passed on September 18 by the parliament, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in a letter to the Bangladesh president has urged him to return it to the parliament for a review.
CPJ, an independent press freedom advocacy organisation, published the letter on its website on Friday, reports The Daily Star.
They said they are concerned that if this legislation is allowed to become law, it would violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.
The letter sent by Steven Butler, Asia programme coordinator of CPJ, added that it would create extensive legal dangers for journalists in the normal course of carrying out their professional activities.
“CPJ respectfully urges you to exercise your constitutional authority to return the legislation to parliament for revisions that would eliminate these dangers,” the letter read.
CPJ specifically outlined concerns that have been expressed repeatedly by the community of journalists in Bangladesh and urged the legislators to address them.
The letter reads, “One of the most worrisome provisions of the Digital Security Act is an amendment added at the last minute in Section 43, which will allow police to arrest or search individuals without a warrant. In addition, the Digital Security Act includes problematic aspects of Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act, despite public promises by government ministers to eliminate it.”
The letter by CPJ added that the extremely heavy fines and punishments, up to 50 million taka (US$600,000) and life imprisonment depending on the offense, threaten to make journalism an unacceptably hazardous profession and will result in a timid press that cannot play the important role required to support a vital democracy in Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh has a proud history as a secular democracy with strong affirmations of human rights and freedom of speech and the press. This legislation promises to damage that tradition, and to severely harm Bangladesh’s standing among the community of democracies as a defender of press freedom,” the letter said.