Expressing its grave concern over Section 32 of the proposed Digital Security Act, the Editors' Council has urged the government to revoke the section and other controversial ones from the draft law.
The council made the call at its meeting at The Daily Star Centre on Tuesday, presided over by the Daily Samakal Editor Golam Sarwar, according to press statement issued the same day.
At the meeting, the council members agreed that the provision in the draft law which covers digital spying and the punishment for such offence would hurt the basic values of democracy and the freedom of expression.
At the same time, it will create an oppressive atmosphere for free journalism, the statement said.
In the new draft law, collecting secret information from a government office using electronic devices is defined as digital spying and there is a provision of harsh punishment for it – highest 14 years' imprisonment or maximum Tk25 lakh fine or both.
Besides, the issues of defamation, hurting religious sentiments, tarnishing the state's image, destroying communal harmony and hampering law and order, which were vaguely mentioned but never clearly defined in Section 57 of the ICT Act, have been included in the proposed law without specific explanations, the statement said, adding that in the name of amending this law, these issues have been divided in four sections in the Digital Security Act with provisions of separate punishments.
The council members – all editors of national media outlets – also called for involving the stakeholders in the process of formulating a new law, dissolving an old one.
They further said even though Law Minister Anisul Huq earlier promised that the controversial Sections 54, 55, 56, 57 and 66 of the ICT Act would be scrapped, their provisions have been tactfully included Sections 25, 28, 29 and 31 of the proposed law.
The council said if put into effect, the law would further restrict free expression and journalism, and demanded that the law be passed after a discussion with the stakeholders.