Leaders of the Editors’ Council met with ministers at the Information Ministry on Sunday regarding the recently-passed act.
Law Minister Anisul Huq has said he would discuss the objections of the Editors’ Council over the recently-passed Digital Security Act 2018 at the next Cabinet meeting and consequently sit with the editors for agreed amendments.
Leaders of the Editors’ Council met with the minister at the Information Ministry on Sunday regarding the recently-passed act.
The Editors’ Council, along with several media and human rights organizations, has objected to a number of sections of the new act that curb freedom of expression and threaten independent journalism.
The meeting began around 12pm and was chaired by Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu.
“Since the bill has not been sent to the president for ascent yet, their objections will be presented in the Cabinet meeting either on October 3 or the one after. After that another meeting will be held with the Editors’ Council,” the law minister said.
Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar, and the prime minister's Media Affairs Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury were also present.
Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, The Daily Star’s Mahfuz Anam, the Dhaka Tribune’s Zafar Sobhan, Manabzamin’s Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, and News Today’s founding Editor Reazuddin Ahmed are among many Editors’ Council leaders who are attending the meeting.
Earlier, on Wednesday, the information minister urged the Editors’ Council to postpone its September 27 program protesting the Digital Security Act 2018. Inu had then invited the council leaders to attend a meeting on September 30, to discuss the newly- introduced act.
Information Minister Inu said he was scheduled to hold separate meetings with leaders of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, the Dhaka Union of Journalists and Dhaka Reporters Unity on Sunday afternoon over the same issue.
The Digital Security Act 2018 was passed in Parliament on September 19 with stiff penalties for a wide variety of cyber infractions— after the ICT Act was annulled because of widespread criticism about its misuse.
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.