The information minister pledging the scrapping of the highly unpopular Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act is an encouraging sign that our government has indeed heard the people’s voice and responded fittingly.
After all, one of the measures of a working democracy is the responsiveness of its public policy to mass public opinion.
This particular section, rather vaguely worded and open to interpretation, allows law enforcers to make an arrest without a warrant, thus leaving plenty of room for abuse and discrimination.
According to Section 57, a person can be arrested if accused by a third party of publishing online anything that “causes to deteriorate law and order, prejudice the image of the state or person or hurt religious beliefs.”
In addition, the offense is considered non-bailable, and the offender can be sentenced to anywhere between seven and 14 years in prison and a maximum fine of Tk1 crore.
To say the least, these measures are draconian and undemocratic.
Journalists became prime targets under this law as anyone with a personal or professional grudge against a journalist could file a case on defamation charges and have him/her arrested without due process.
That is absolutely at odds with a just legal system and proper law enforcement.
Although scores of journalists have been wrongfully arrested already, we still really appreciate the government for finally deciding to drop this section; after all, it has no place in the law books of a country that claims to uphold freedom of the press and freedom of expression.