Fearing that the misuse of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act will tarnish the Awami League’s reputation and put it in a tight spot before the next general elections, the ruling party has instructed its leaders and activists to be careful when filing case, particularly against journalists and rights activists, under controversial Section 57 of the act.
Party insiders said from now on, leaders and activists of the Awami League and its associate bodies would have to secure permission from central leaders before suing anybody under Section 57. Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader already informed district leaders of the recent decision.
The Awami League has been facing vehement public criticism over Section 57 as some of the party men are using the act as a tool to take revenge on journalists even though it was enacted to check cybercrimes, they also said.
Preferring to be anonymous, a Central Working Committee member of the party told the Dhaka Tribune: “The government’s image has been badly tarnished among journalists because of some over-enthusiastic leaders and activists. Journalists are the spokespersons of the masses. So, it is very important for the Awami League to maintain amicable relations with them.”
Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said the directive was issued to prevent Awami League men from misusing the law.
Commending the move, prominent human rights activist Sultana Kamal said: “It is quite impossible to prevent misuse of the law because not only Awami League men, but others are misusing it.”
If the government really wants to control the act’s misuse, several provisions in the law have to be revoked in line with the recommendations put forward by activists and journalists, she stressed.
Veteran journalist Afsan Chowdhury said: “The Awami League is losing its popularity due to the cases its activists filed under Section 57. Now they have realised the act is boomeranging on them, which is why they are striving to rebuild their image before the polls by issuing such directives.”
Calling on the journalists to wage a stricter movement against the act, Afsan, also a professor at Brac University, said: “Journalists should understand that Awami League will not use the act before the elections. So, it is time for them to get their demands met.”