World Asia 16 Oct 2018 Bangladesh newspaper ...

Bangladesh newspaper editors protest 'anti-press' digital security law

PTI
Published Oct 16, 2018, 1:53 pm IST
Updated Oct 16, 2018, 1:53 pm IST
President Abdul Hamid had approved the Digital Security Act on October 8 amidst widespread protests by journalists and rights group.
Mediapersons are particularly concerned about a provision in the law under which journalists can be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using electronic device -- an offence that would carry a 14-year jail sentence. (Photo: AP)
 Mediapersons are particularly concerned about a provision in the law under which journalists can be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using electronic device -- an offence that would carry a 14-year jail sentence. (Photo: AP)

Dhaka: Bangladeshi newspaper editors formed a human chain in the heart of the national capital on Monday to protest a newly enacted digital security law, which they say will stifle constitutionally protected freedom of speech and curtail press freedom.

President Abdul Hamid had approved the Digital Security Act on October 8 amidst widespread protests by journalists and rights group.

 

Mediapersons are particularly concerned about a provision in the law under which journalists can be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using electronic device -- an offence that would carry a 14-year jail sentence.

"The punishment will be life imprisonment and a monetary fine of Tk 5 crore for second offenders," Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mostafa Jabbar had said when tabling the bill in parliament.

The law also allows police to arrest a journalist without any warrant and confiscate his equipment.

 

"The law is contrary to independent journalism and media," Mahfuz Anam, general secretary of the Editors' Council, said.

"The Editors' Council is not opposed to the Digital Security Act, it is just demanding amendment to some of the provisions of the law," Anam, who is also the editor of The Daily Star, said.

The protesting editors said they were open to any discussion on the amendment of the law but "the discussion must be meaningful".

Top editors and journalists had held a last-minute meeting with ministers demanding that nine sections of the legislation be changed.

 

The law minister had promised that he would discuss the issues.

However, the President went ahead and signed the Act into law.

The editors demanded that the proposed changes should be brought in the upcoming parliament session.

The government, however, said the law is needed to "fight misinformation".

Ruling out journalists' fear, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said no one should be worried about the law unless someone was harbouring "criminal mind".

She said the law was meant to combat the abuse of digital platforms in spreading radicalisation, terrorism and pornography.

 

The law was enacted weeks after top Bangladeshi journalist and activist Shahidul Alam was arrested during massive student protests in Dhaka for allegedly making "false" and "provocative" statements.

Rights groups, UN rights experts, Nobel laureates and hundreds of academics have called for the immediate release of the 63-year-old, who says he has been beaten in custody.

...
Location: Bangladesh, Dhaka, Dhaka




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