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Solving the wrong problem

  • Published at 05:58 pm September 29th, 2018
DSA
Photo: BIGSTOCK

Mainstream media is not the enemy, and cracking down on journalists does a disservice to our democracy

Few would deny that digital platforms stand the potential for misuse, and that there need to be laws and regulations against the spread of false information with harmful intent.

But it imperative to make sure that, in doing so, basic constitutional rights of citizens are not being violated.

It is regrettable that the new Digital Security Act recently passed in parliament is written so broadly that it could put journalists in handcuffs for simply doing their job.

While the government has assured the media and the public that the new law will not be misused or interpreted too broadly -- and we earnestly hope that is the case -- it is hard to put such concerns at rest. 

Take for example, the fact that, under the act, police can enter premises, search offices or bodily search individuals, and seize computers; furthermore arrests can be made based on suspicion without a warrant.

The Editors’ Council is right to point out that journalism, especially investigative journalism, will become extremely difficult, as the DSA will create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Previously, under the ICT Act, journalists had also been assured that there was nothing to fear, but people were imprisoned and harassed under the act nevertheless, and now the new DSA seems set to repeat the patterns set by Section 57 of the ICT Act, just under a new name. 

Mainstream media is not the enemy, and cracking down on journalists does a disservice to our democracy, and we hope our nation does not go down a path where the space for free speech is constantly shrinking.