• Thursday, Nov 21, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:50 pm

Why the Editors' Council opposes the Digital Security Act

  • Published at 11:20 am September 28th, 2018
web_digital-security-act-ict
Representational photo of Digital Security Act

The Editors’ Council makes a section-by-section analysis of the recently passed digital security law to show how it stifles the freedom of press – in direct contradiction of the Constitution of Bangladesh

The Digital Security Act (DSA), just passed in parliament, suffers from the following fundamental flaws:

1. In trying to make a law to prevent crimes through digital devices and provide security in the digital sphere, the act ends up policing media operations, censoring content and controlling media freedom and freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by our constitution.

2. The act gives unlimited power to the police to enter premises, search offices, bodily search persons, seize computers, computer networks, servers, and everything related to the digital platforms. According to the act, the police can arrest anybody on suspicion without warrant and do not need any approval of any authorities. 

3. The act suffers from vagueness and uses many terms that can be misinterpreted and used against the media.

4. DSA will create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, which will make journalism and especially investigative journalism virtually impossible.

5. In addition to media professionals, the law will create panic among all users of computers, computer network, etc.

When the ICT Act was made in 2006, the government said journalists had nothing to fear as its aim was to prevent cybercrime and punish cybercriminals. The reality is, journalists and people who exercised their constitutional rights to freedom of speech suffered imprisonment and harassment under Section 57 of the ICT Act. The same is now being said that journalists have nothing to worry about the DSA, but the apprehension is that journalists will again face the same kind of harassment by this law.

The purpose of the law, as mentioned in its preamble, is to “ensure digital security and prevent crimes committed on digital platforms.” Hence, we should not have been worried about the law. But the problem is that DSA goes much beyond its defined scope and ventures into the territory of media and journalism. The law goes against the very nature and practice of independent journalism that stands to protect people’s right to know and exposes abuse of power and corruption.

The DSA deals with the digital world which is ever evolving. Digital technology is all-pervasive – from national security to food production to health services to financial transactions – and media are no exceptions. 


Also Read- Digital Security Bill passes amid free speech concerns


While other fields mentioned above may require “regulations,” media needs “freedom.” The DSA is focused only on the “regulation” aspect and totally neglects the need for media freedom. This is one of the fundamental flaws of DSA, making it so dangerous for the media.

A frightening aspect of the DSA is the enormous arbitrary power given to the police who may arrest a journalist just on suspicion of a so-called crime that he thinks may be committed in the future. The police are allowed to make such arrests, which have been made mostly non-bailable, without any warrant. In practical terms, this will bring journalism under police control.

What is also alarming is that out of the 20 or so provisions of the law that deal with offences and punishments, 14 are non-bailable. Five are bailable and one can be negotiated. The lowest punishment is one year in prison, and the highest life-term imprisonment, but mostly in the range of between four and seven years. This will inevitably create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, under which normal functioning of journalism will become extremely risky – if not impossible.

Not only does this law go far beyond what it was supposed to address, it is also full of vagueness that leaves scopes for abuse of the law. Experience shows both in Bangladesh and abroad that laws that are clearly-worded, crimes that are specified and punishment proportionate to crimes lead to better rule of law. Vagueness leads to misinterpretation of crimes and misuse of the law. When law is misused, freedom is curtailed.  

Another flaw of the DSA is the level of punishment meted out to “offenders.” Let’s take the case of the Road Safety Act, which was passed along with the DSA. The former provides for a maximum punishment of five years for killing people in accidents, while a journalist can be punished up to life-term for violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, 1923, which can happen if a reporter takes pictures of an unpublished government document with his mobile phone, which is now a very common practice.

Detailed explanation

Below we present a detailed analysis as to why the Editors’ Council considers this law to be anti-free press, against freedom of speech and antithetical to democracy.

We reproduce the provisions of the DSA that we find most dangerous. We publish the original version in Bangla first, and then we give our own English translation. 

Section 8

৮। কতিপয় তথ্য-উপাত্ত অপসারণ বা ব্লক করিবার ক্ষমতা।-(১)মহাপরিচালকের নিজ অধিক্ষেত্রভুক্ত কোনো বিষয়ে ডিজিটাল মাধ্যমে প্রকাশিত বা প্রচারিত কোনো তথ্য-উপাত্ত ডিজিটাল নিরাপত্তার ক্ষেত্রে হুমকি সৃষ্টি করিলে তিনি উক্ত তথ্য-উপাত্ত অপসারণ বা ক্ষেত্রমত, ব্লক করিবার জন্য বাংলাদেশ টেলিযোগাযোগ নিয়ন্ত্রণ কমিশনকে, অতঃপর বিটিআরসি বলিয়া উল্লিখিত, অনুরোধ করিতে পারিবেন।

(২)যদি আইন শৃঙ্খলা রক্ষাকারি বাহিনীর নিকট প্রতীয়মান হয় যে,ডিজিটাল মাধ্যমে প্রকাশিত বা প্রচারিত কোনো তথ্য-উপাত্ত দেশের বা উহার কোনো অংশের সংহতি, অর্থনৈতিক কর্মকান্ড,নিরাপত্তা,প্রতিরক্ষা,ধর্মীয় মূল্যবোধ বা জনশৃঙ্খলা ক্ষুণ্ণ করে,বা জাতিগত বিদ্বেষ ও ঘৃণার সঞ্চার করে, তাহা হইলে আইন-শৃঙ্খলা রক্ষাকারি বাহিনী উক্ত তথ্য-উপাত্ত অপসারণ বা ব্লক করিবার জন্য মহাপরিচালকের মাধ্যমে, বিটিআরসিকে অনুরোধ করিতে পারিবেন।

(৩)উপ-ধারা (১)ও(২)এর অধীন কোনো অনুরোধ প্রাপ্ত হইলে বিটিআরসি, উক্ত বিষয়াদি সরকারকে অবহিতক্রমে, তাৎক্ষণিকভাবে উক্ত তথ্য-উপাত্ত অপসারণ বা ক্ষেত্রমত, ব্লক করিবে।

Our translation

Power to remove or block information and data: (1) If the director general is satisfied that something that is published or disseminated in the digital platform falling within his domain may pose threat to digital security, he may request Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to remove such information or data or, in specific cases, block the platform.

If it is evident to the law enforcement agencies that something published and disseminated through any digital device or digital medium can create disunity in the country, disrupt economic activities, security and defence, hurt religious values, create communal hatred or bad feelings, create law and order situation, then the law enforcement agencies can request the BTRC to remove such content or block it.

On receipt of such requests, BTRC while informing the government will take immediate actions to remove or block the content.

Editors’ Council’s comment

There are two issues of concern here – the power of the director general and the power of the law enforcement agencies. The power to block contents will hit the heart of publication either in print or online. Any report may be blocked or a photograph may be confiscated that may lead to disruption of any media outlet. 

The justification needed to remove or block content are too vague and subject to individual interpretation, and hence leave the scope for abuse of the law. For example, if exposing corruption in a project leads to stopping its financing by any donor or a private investor, then a journalist can be accused of “disrupting economic activity” under this law, and this can lead to blocking or removal of the content.

Section 21

২১।মুক্তিযুদ্ধ,মুক্তিযুদ্ধের চেতনা,জাতির পিতা,জাতীয় সংগীত বা জাতীয় পতাকার বিরুদ্ধে কোনো প্রকার প্রপাগান্ডা বা প্রচারণার দন্ড।- (১)যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি ডিজিটাল মাধ্যমে বাংলাদেশের মুক্তিযুদ্ধ,মুক্তিযুদ্ধেরচেতনা,জাতির পিতা,জাতীয় সংগীত বা জাতীয় পতাকার বিরুদ্ধে কোনো প্রকার প্রপাগান্ডা বা প্রচারণা চালান বা উহাতে মদদ প্রদান করেন, তাহা হইলে উক্ত ব্যক্তির অনুরূপ কার্য হইবে একটি অপরাধ।

Our translation

Punishment for any propaganda against the Liberation War, spirit of the Liberation War, the father of the nation, the national anthem and the national flag: (1) If an individual makes propaganda against the Liberation War, spirit of Liberation War, the father of the nation, the national anthem and the national flag, or assist in such a process, then such an action will be considered as a crime.

Editors’ Council’s comment

We are fully committed to the preservation of the dignity and correct history of our Liberation War and, given the past experience of attempts at its distortion, we understand the need to do something in this regard. However, “spirit of Liberation War” is a rather vague term. Without further defining the “crimes” under this section and clearly specifying what constitutes a “crime,” we run the risk of serious abuse of this law and harassment of journalists, and the punishment is up to life-term or (and) Tk3 crore in fine or both.

“Mukti Juddher Chetona” (spirit of Liberation War) is a vague term and is very subjective, and cases can be brought against journalists as interpretations can vary.

We reiterate that we are in favour of protecting the great legacy of our Liberation War for the future generations. However, when laws are being framed, we need to be very clear and specific. Given its present form, not only journalists but historians, researchers and even creative writers like novelists will also suffer. It may even result in people not writing or researching much on our Liberation War fearing misinterpretation and the possibility of punishment.  

Section 25

২৫। আক্রমনাত্নক, মিথ্যা বা ভীতি প্রদর্শক,তথ্য-উপাত্ত প্রেরণ, প্রকাশ,ইত্যাদি।- (১)যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি ওয়েবসাইট বা অন্য কোনো ডিজিটাল মাধ্যমে-

(ক)ইচ্ছাকৃতভাবে বা জ্ঞাতসারে, এমন কোনো তথ্য-উপাত্ত প্রেরণ করেন, যাহা আক্রমনাত্নক বা  ভীতি প্রদর্শক অথবা মিথ্যা বলিয়া জ্ঞাত থাকা সত্ত্বেও, কোনো ব্যক্তিকে বিরক্ত,অপমান,অপদস্থ বা হেয় প্রতিপন্ন করিবার অভিযোগে কোনো তথ্য-উপাত্ত প্রেরণ,প্রকাশ বা প্রচার করেন, বা

(খ)রাষ্ট্রের ভাবমূর্তি বা সুনাম ক্ষুণ্ণ করিবার, বা বিভ্রান্তি ছড়াইবার, বা তদুদ্দেশ্যে অপপ্রচার বা মিথ্যা বলিয়া জ্ঞাত থাকা সত্ত্বেও,কোনো তথ্য সম্পূর্ণ বা আংশিক বিকৃত আকারে প্রকাশ, বা প্রচার করেন বা করিতে সহায়তা করেন,

তাহা হইলে উক্ত ব্যক্তির অনুরূপ কার্য হইবে একটি অপরাধ।

 Our translation

Publishing or distributing attacking, false or intimidating information or data: (1) If any person using a website or any digital device- (a) deliberately or knowingly distributes any information or data that is attacking or intimidating in nature; or if a person publishes or distributes any information despite knowing that it is false to irritate, humiliate, defame or embarrass or to discredit a person 

Or 

(b) Damages the image and reputation of the state or spreads confusion or with the same purpose publishes or distributes fully or partially distorted information or data, despite knowing that it is false, and if any one assists in such actions, then all such actions of the individual will be considered a crime.

Editors’ Council’s comment

This will directly affect all investigative reporting in the media. Such reports are usually about some irregularities performed by institutions and individuals. Corrupt people will use this law to intimidate journalists and media organizations and try to prevent publication of such stories on the pretext that the reports have attacked or intimidated them. Actually, every such report can be said to fall under one or more of the above categories and can be used to harass the media. 

Any investigative report that reveals corruption about a person or an institution is bound to irritate, embarrass or humiliate someone. This provision will make it impossible to publish any negative report about any corrupt person. This will reduce newspapers to PR outfits. Journalism of even the most rudimentary investigative nature will become impossible. 

The second part of this provision talks about “spreading confusion.” Without specifying the meaning of “confusion,” it may become a weapon of media harassment. What is confusing to one may not be confusing to another. This will surely create a new avenue to intimidate the media.

Then again, what constitutes damaging the “image/ reputation” of the state? Recently, we have reported about the corruption in the banking sector by unscrupulous business groups. We have reported that the banks face grim crisis. Does it constitute damaging the “image/ reputation”? We have reported corruption in the law enforcement agencies. We have reported on custodial deaths, disappearances, and extra-judicial killings. If someone interprets all these reports as damaging the image of the state, then this law legalizes punishment of journalists and newspapers for making such reports as all newspapers have websites. 

Our translation

If any website or electronic system publishes or broadcasts anything that hurts religious values and religious sentiments, etc: (1) If any person or group deliberately and knowingly, and with the intention of hurting religious values or sentiments or with the intention to provoke such sentiment, publishes or broadcasts information, then such actions will be considered a crime. 

Editors’ Council’s comment

The term “religious sentiment” is a very undefined term. How can a reporter know how and when religious sentiment has been hurt? This term lends itself to diverse interpretations and no journalist will feel comfortable about reporting on such issues. This will prevent journalistic scrutiny over a large area of the society. The recent reporting on the sexual harassment by Catholic priests would not have been possible if those countries had a law preventing reporting that hurts religious sentiments. Criticizing unlawful fatwa or women’s property rights may be interpreted by some as hurting their religious values. This section can lead to widespread harassment of journalists.  

Section 29

২৯। মানহানিকর তথ্য প্রকাশ,প্রচার,ইত্যাদি।-(১)যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি ওয়েবসাইট বা অন্য কোনো ইলেক্ট্রনিক বিন্যাসে Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) এর section 499 এ বর্ণিত মানহানিকর তথ্য প্রকাশ বা প্রচার করেন, তজ্জন্য তিনি অনধিক ৩(তিন)বৎসর কারাদন্ডে, বা অনধিক ৫(পাঁচ)লক্ষ টাকা অর্থদণ্ডে, বা উভয়দন্ডে দন্ডিত হইবেন।

Our translation

Publishing and distributing defamatory information, etc – 1) If a person publishes or distributes any defamatory information mentioned in Section 499 of the Penal Code (Act XLV of 1860) via a website or any other electronic format, they will get a maximum penalty of three years in jail or Tk5 lakh in fine, or both. 

Editors’ Council’s comment

A law already exists to deal with defamation, and so a separate law for digital media is not needed. Moreover, there is no logic for enhanced penalty for digital media from print media for the same crime. 

Section 31

৩১।আইন-শৃঙ্খলার অবনতি ঘটানো, ইত্যাদির অপরাধ ও দন্ড।-(১)যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি ইচ্ছাকৃত ভাবে ওয়েবসাইট বা ডিজিটাল বিন্যাসে এমন কিছু প্রকাশ বা সম্প্রচার করেন বা করান,যাহা সংশ্লিষ্ট বিভিন্ন শ্রেণি বা সম্প্রদায়ের মধ্যে শত্রুতা, ঘৃণা বা বিদ্বেষ সৃষ্টি করে বা সাম্প্রদায়িক সম্প্রীতি বিনষ্ট করে বা অস্থিরতা বা বিশৃঙ্খলা সৃষ্টি করে অথবা আইন-শৃঙ্খলার অবনতি ঘটায় বা ঘটিবার উপক্রম হয়, তাহা হইলে উক্ত ব্যক্তির অনুরূপ কার্য হইবে একটি অপরাধ।

Our translation

Crimes and penalty for deterioration of law and order, etc – 1) If a person deliberately publishes or broadcasts via a website or any digital platform anything that creates enmity, hatred or acrimony among different classes or communities, or upsets communal harmony, or creates unrest or chaos, or causes or begins to cause deterioration in law and order, then that activity of said person will be considered a crime.

Editors’ Council’s comment

A news concerning discrimination about Dalits, or ethnic groups and exploitation of disadvantaged groups may be interpreted as causing disaffection between different groups. Any news highlighting plights of the people of Chittagong Hill Tracts may be interpreted as “creating unrest” among different communities. Similarly, news about possible labour unrest, impending hartal or demonstration can be construed as reports that are “creating law and order situation” and thus bring action under this law. There could be a story that a person has died in a demonstration, which may later prove to be untrue. Will the media be guilty of spreading rumour?  Such errors regularly occur in reporting which are corrected immediately. In Bangladesh, death figures from floods, cyclones or even roads accidents vary. Government figures are always at variance with privately gathered figures. In such cases, according to the DSA, media can be sued for “spreading rumour.”  Sometimes, reports may forecast certain developments which may not exactly happen later. That also can be considered as “spreading rumour.” Thus, we find this section as seriously jeopardizing freedom of journalism. 

Section 32

৩২। সরকারি গোপনীয়তা ভঙ্গের অপরাধ ও দন্ড।-(১)যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি Official Secrets Act,1923 (Act No.XIX of 1923 এর আওতাভুক্ত কোনো অপরাধ কম্পিউটার, ডিজিটাল ডিভাইস,কম্পিউটার নেটওয়ার্ক, ডিজিটাল নেটওয়ার্ক বা অন্য কোনো ডিজিটাল মাধ্যমে সংঘটন করেন বা করিতে সহায়তা করেন, তাহা হইলে তিনি অনধিক ১৪(চৌদ্দ)বৎসর কারাদন্ডে,বা অনধিক ২৫(পঁচিশ)লক্ষ টাকা অর্থদন্ডে,বা উভয়দন্ডে দন্ডিত হইবেন।

(২) যদি কোনো ব্যক্তি উপধারা (১) এ উল্লেখিত অপরাধ দ্বিতীয়বারবা পুনঃপুন সংঘটন করেন, তাহা হইলে তিনি যাবজ্জীবন কারাদন্ডে,বা অনধিক ১(এক) কোটি টাকা অর্থদন্ডে, বা উভয় দন্ডে দন্ডিতহইবেন।

Our translation

Offence and penalty for breach of Official Secrets – 1) If a person commits a crime or assists someone in committing a crime under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (Act No XIX of 1923) via a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other digital media, they will get a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail or Tk25 lakh in fines, or both.

2) If a person commits a crime mentioned in the sub-clause (1) for a second time or repeatedly, they will be sentenced to life in prison or a maximum fine of Tk1 crore, or both. 

Editors’ Council’s comment

This is a sweeping restrictive law from the colonial times that was promulgated to protect the British administration from any sort of accountability. It is shocking to see it being incorporated for digital platforms. Anything that is not made public by the government is deemed an “official secret.” Let us take one example. We have published dozens of reports about bank defaults based on Bangladesh Bank’s findings. All such reports can be said to have violated the Official Secrets Act. All government reports which have not been made public, say, on pollution or child nutrition, are a part of the Official Secrets Act. Is journalism of any worth possible without the use of such official reports? And why should using them be a crime, as people have a right to know under the RTI Act, especially when all such reports are funded by public money? 

Could we have done any of the reporting on default loans, gross irregularities in Farmers Bank or Basic Bank without Bangladesh Bank or government departments’ reports, which were yet to be made public? And our reporters often use their mobile phones to take pictures of such documents. So they can be thrown in jail up to life-term, right? 

Proponents of this law may find our examples to be ludicrous. But real life examples from the use of Section 57 of the ICT Act give journalists no reasons for comfort.

Section 43

৪৩।পরোয়ানা ব্যতিরেকে তল্লাশি,জব্দ ও গ্রেফতার।-(১)যদি কোনো পুলিশ অফিসারের এইরূপ বিশ্বাস করিবার কারণ থাকে যে কোনো স্থানে এই আইনের অধীন কোনো অপরাধ সংঘটিত হইয়াছে বা হইতেছে বা হইবার সম্ভাবনা রহিয়াছে বা সাক্ষ্য প্রমাণাদি হারানো,নস্ট হওয়া,মুছিয়া ফেলা,পরিবর্তন বা অন্য কোনো উপায়ে দুষ্প্রাপ্য হইবার বা করিবার সম্ভাবনা রহিয়াছে,তাহা হইলে তিনি,অনুরূপ বিশ্বাসের কারণ লিপিবদ্ধ করিয়ানিম্নবর্ণিত কার্য সম্পাদন করিতে পারিবেন,-

(ক)উক্ত স্থানে প্রবেশ করিয়া তল্লাশি এবং প্রবেশে বাধাপ্রাপ্ত হইলে ফৌজদারি কার্যবিধি অনু্যায়ী প্রয়োজনীয় ব্যবস্থা গ্রহণ;

(খ)উক্ত স্থানে তল্লাশিকালে প্রাপ্ত অপরাধ সংঘটনে ব্যবহার্য কম্পিউটার, কম্পিউটার সিস্টেম,কম্পিউটার নেটওয়ার্ক,তথ্য-উপাত্ত বা অন্যান্য সরঞ্জামাদি এবং অপরাধ প্রমাণে সহায়ক কোনো দলিল জব্দকরণ;

(গ)উক্ত স্থানে উপস্থিত যে কোনো ব্যক্তির দেহ তল্লাশি;

(ঘ)উক্ত স্থানে উপস্থিত কোনো ব্যক্তি এই আইনের অধীন কোনো অপরাধ করিয়াছেন বা করিতেছেন বলিয়া সন্দেহ হইলে উক্ত ব্যক্তিকে গ্রেফতার।

Our translation

Search, seizure and arrest without warrant – 1) If a police officer has a reason to believe that a crime under this law has been or is being or will be committed in any place, or there is a possibility of it happening, or if there is a possibility of evidence being lost, destroyed, deleted or altered or being made scarce in some other way, then the officer, upon putting in writing the reason for his/her belief, can undertake the following tasks:

a) Enter and search said place and, if intercepted, take necessary action in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure; 

b) Seize the computer, computer systems, computer network, data and information or other objects used in committing the crime or documents that can help prove the crime while conducting a search in the said place; 

c) Bodily search anyone present in the said place;

d) Arrest anyone present in said place if suspected of committing or having committed a crime under this law.

Editors’ Council’s comment

This is by far the most dangerous of the provisions of the law.

This empowers the police to enter any premises, search any computer system, seize any computer network and its servers, bodily search any body and also arrest anybody on suspicion. 

First, the threat of arrest without warrant will naturally prevent a journalist from doing their work. When police get the power to arrest without warrant, and on mere suspicion, then media freedom will be buried under this law. Given the fact that 14 out of 20 provisions of punishment are non-bailable, the threat of arrest becomes like the Damocles’ Sword constantly hanging over the head of every journalist, causing mental stress. This will prevent all forms of real journalism and make our media nothing more than public relations and propaganda outlets.

Even if the law is not implemented (and why not, if the law exists?), the environment of fear will prevent journalists from doing their job. The fear of arrest will become a regular part of the “mental environment” and debilitate a journalist from taking legitimate risks that he or she regularly take to file their stories. The emotional stress that it will create should not be underestimated. It can easily be expected that people in power will abuse this law – provoke or “manage” law enforcers to threaten or even arrest journalists for any story that will reveal something that the rich and powerful will want to hide. 

The most dangerous side of this law is that, since every newspaper and TV station works on digital system, by giving the power to confiscate a computer, a network of computers including servers, the law enforcement agencies have been given, in effect, the power to shut down a newspaper or TV station or a news portal by confiscating its computers, computer system, computer network and other equipment. Thus, without closing down a media outlet, this clause opens up the possibility of stopping the publication of a newspaper or the operation of a TV station by the law enforcement agencies.

Section 53

৫৩।অপরাধের আমলাযোগ্যতা ও জামিনযোগ্যতা।-এই আইনের-

(ক)ধারা ১৭,১৯,২১,২২,২৩,২৪,২৬,২৭,২৮,৩০,৩১,৩২,৩৩ ও ৩৪ এ উল্লেখিত অপরাধসমূহ আমলাযোগ্য ও অ-জামিনযোগ্য হইবে; এবং

(খ)ধারা ১৮ এর উপ-ধারা (১) এর দফা (খ),২০,২৫,২৯ ও ৪৮ এর উপধারা(৩)এ উল্লিখিত অপরাধসমূহ অ-আমলযোগ্য ও জামিনযোগ্য হইবে;

Our translation

Offences that are cognizable and bailable – Under this law – 

(a) Sections 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 33 and 34 are cognizable and non-bailable offences, and

(b) Section 18’s Sub-Section (1) (B), Sections 20, 25, 29 and 48’s Sub-Clause (3) are non-cognizable and bailable.

Editors’ Council’s comment

Under this law, out of the 20 or so provisions dealing with crimes and punishment,14 are cognizable and non-bailable. Given the fact that police have the power to arbitrarily arrest without warrant and on mere suspicion, this law presents a real threat to media freedom as so many offences have been made cognizable and non-bailable. 

Conclusion

1) The DSA clearly violates the citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of speech and expression and freedom of the press, within reasonable restrictions, guaranteed in our most sacred document – the constitution.

2) This law violates the spirit of our Liberation War and the high ideals of freedom that our martyrs laid down their lives for.

3) This law is against the fundamentals of democracy, democratic governance and all the rights that our people fought for repeatedly during our struggle against the Pakistani rule and against all martial law regimes after 1971.

4) The Digital Security Act is against all the fundamental values of ethical and independent journalism.

5) The Digital Security Act is in contradiction with the Right to Information Act.

We have explained in detail and made a section-by-section analysis as to why the Digital Security Act is against our constitution, against our fundamental rights, against freedom of speech and freedom of journalism and, as such, against democracy.

It is thus that the Editors’ Council is forced to reject this law.

Finally, we conclude with a quotation from the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Addressing the speaker of then Pakistan parliament, on February 3, 1956, during the debate on constitution framing in the Constituent Assembly, he said: 

‘আপনারা বলে থাকেন যে বাকস্বাধীনতা মানেই সংবাদপত্রের স্বাধীনতা।

‘আপনি কি জানেন যে পূর্ববঙ্গে সম্পাদকদের ডেকে বলা হয়, আপনারা এটা ছাপাতে পারবেন না; আপনারা ওটা ছাপাতে পারবেন না। স্যার, তাঁরা সত্য কথা পর্যন্ত লিখে ছাপাতে পারেন না এবং আমি সেটা প্রমাণ করে দিতে পারি।...নির্দেশটা যায় সচিবালয় থেকে...। সরকারের তরফ থেকে একজন ইনসপেক্টর গিয়ে নির্দেশনা দেন যে, আপনি একটা নির্দিষ্ট বিষয়ে লিখতে পারবেন না।...

‘এটা পরিষ্কারভাবে লিপিবদ্ধ থাকতে হবে যে সংবাদপত্রের স্বাধীনতা থাকবে, তাঁরা তাঁদের ইচ্ছামতো বক্তব্য লিপিবদ্ধ করতে পারবেন এবং জনমত গড়ে তুলতে পারবেন।’

Our translation

“You often say that freedom of speech means the freedom of the press. Do you know that editors of East Bengal are summoned and told that they cannot print this or that? Sir, they cannot print the truth, and I can prove it … The directive goes from the Secretariat … An inspector goes on behalf of the government and says they cannot write on a specific subject.

“… This must be clearly written [in the constitution] that freedom of the press will exist and they [editors] can write as they wish and they can create public opinion.”