A writ petition has been already filed against four sections of the Digital Security Act
The existing Digital Security Act (DSA) can have a boomerang effect on the government as any government can use this act against anybody in future.
So, it is high time to review and change some articles of this law, said a group of writers, lawyers, journalists and researchers in a webinar titled “Challenging Laws that Violate Fundamental Freedom” organized by PEN Bangladesh on Wednesday night.
Barrister Sadia Arman conducted the webinar while eminent writer Syed Manzoorul Islam, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman, journalist Ashish Saikat and Barrister Rashna Imam among others participated.
Right to freedom of speech
In the opening speech Syed Manzoorul Islam said, Bangladesh got independence with the spirit of our liberation war of 1971 so we have to ensure the freedom of speech of our citizens.
“We need to ensure freedom of expression and the freedom after expression also. I think it is not tough to perceive a state which was born with the spirit of 71,” he added.
Iftekharuzzaman said in Bangladesh, Digital Security Act, Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Law and some other acts and laws are against everyone’s fundamental rights.
According to Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Law 2016, if somebody makes a defamatory comment against our constitution and constitutional institutions, he or she can be sentenced to jail. This law is a violation of fundamental rights, he added
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He said the Digital Security Act is not only for the journalists, each and every citizen of Bangladesh feels insecure for this law.
“We need to change some sections of this law,” the TIB executive director added.
Iftekharuzzaman also said that in many countries where authorities made a law like Digital Security Act, sooner or later they realized it can have a boomerang effect on them.
“We need to challenge these types of laws and speak to change them,” he added.
Journalist Ashish Saikat said, after the approval of the Digital Security Act, journalists have been self-editing themselves as there is no more room for further correction or rejoinder after publishing any content on media, according to the act.
“We have spoken with the government bodies several times. We even spoke with the former information and law minister before the last national election demanding changes in 8-10 sections of the law. At that time, they assured the changes will be done after the election, but there has been no progress yet,” he added.
“Broadly, this law has made journalists helpless now but in future it may affect political activities too,” said Ashish.
Rashna Imam said a writ petition was filed to a court against four sections of the act, which is still under a judge. Now the court will decide about the test of reasonableness of these sections.
Any government can misuse the Digital Security Act against anybody as there is no clear guidance for some terms in the law. This law allows police to arrest anyone without warrant, she added.
The act can have a boomerang effect. The Section 32 of this act has even gagged the scope of investigative journalism, said Rashna.