The prime minister wonders why journalists have suddenly become so worried
Journalists should not be apprehensive about the Digital Security Act if they do not run false or fabricated news, or mislead the people, said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“I understand that journalists are very worried but who will address our apprehension? [Or] of those who are being victimized? And how will you (journalists) compensate them?” she asked, replying to a question, at a media briefing on Wednesday.
She pointed out that the draft of the Digital Security Act was available online and discussions had taken place with everyone.
“How have you (journalists) suddenly become so worried? Someone who does not have a criminal mindset or no plan to commit crimes in the future has nothing to worry,” the prime minister said.
“… You don’t have anything to be worried about, at least as long as I am here,” she assured journalists.
The Digital Security Bill 2018 was passed in Parliament on September 19 with stiff penalties for a wide variety of cyber infractions.
The new law faced vocal opposition from journalists and rights campaigners who say it could quash freedom of speech and would undermine responsible journalism.
In a recent statement, the Editors’ Council said the Act will “create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, which will make journalism, and especially investigative journalism, virtually impossible.”
Hasina said the government reviewed laws of other countries before formulating the Act but she noted it did not have provision for compensating victims.
The prime minister said the Digital Security Act had nothing outside the Code of Criminal Procedure provisions. “The law has just accommodated provisions on digital devices and their usage,” she added.
“I think a part should be added in it (the Act) that if [journalists or media] provide information against someone, they must prove that it is correct. Otherwise, that journalist or the media will have to face punishment and pay damages. The system is there in England,” she said.
Citing an incident involving the BBC, she said its top brass stepped down for running false reports against an MP.
Hasina recalled false corruption reports were run by a newspaper when she was incarcerated in 2007. The allegations turned out to be baseless after investigation but the newspaper went scot-free.
She said the images of persons named in false reports are damaged. “Those who wrote big headlines on the Padma Bridge are still walking with their heads held high. But who will look after those who were dishonoured before their families and society (because of the news reports)?”