Posts, Telecommunications and Information Technology Minister Mustafa Jabbar on Wednesday said the government would not pass the proposed Digital Security Act, 2018 without addressing the concerns of the media professionals.
"The government is not out to harm media and journalists' freedom. Because without freedom of press, we cannot ensure a safe social environment in an era of digital media," he told a discussion held at the National Press Club in Dhaka.
"The proposed act is meant for controlling digital crimes. Not to curtail freedom of the press," he said.
Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) organized the discussion with supports from Fojo Media Institute and Management and Resources Development Initiative (MRDI) on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, which would be observed worldwide on Thursday.
The minister’s remarks, however, coincided with Transparency International Bangladesh’s (TIB) call on Wednesday that a number of sections of the proposed Digital Security Act must be reviewed and Section 57 of the ICT Act repealed.
It also said such actions were needed for ensuring the constitutional right to express views by the people and mass media.
Also Read- TIB: Repeal Section 57, review Digital Security Act
Mustafa Jabbar said: "We have already held our first meeting to look into the provisions that are facing criticism from media professionals. Another meeting will be held for further scrutiny.”
"One thing I can tell you all that we will not do anything that will ignore people's concerns, and the suggestions of the journalists will be heeded," he said. "We will uphold the constitutional rights of the people."
Presenting a keynote paper at the discussion, barrister Tanjib-ul Alam said Section 32 of the proposed act would create an oppressive environment for free and fair journalism as well as the freedom of expression.
Because of the Section 32 that deals with so-called "digital espionage,” freedom of expression, thought and conscience would be at stake, he said.
"The provision for punishment for such offence is 14 years in jail. This is too much," he said.
Abdul Qaiyum, associate editor of daily Prothom Alo and a senior member of the CJA, Bhorer Kagaj Editor and CJA's Bangladesh chapter General Secretary Shyamal Dutta were among others present at the program, which was chaired by senior journalist and CJA Vice President Abdur Rahman Khan.
Minister Jabbar said the proposed act was now pending with the parliamentary standing committee on his ministry for vetting.
The Cabinet on January 29 approved the draft of the Digital Security Act.