Wednesday, June 19, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Thank you for listening

It is more important than ever to strike a balance between safeguarding national security and upholding individual freedoms

Update : 08 Aug 2023, 12:59 PM
The Digital Security Act (2018) was introduced with the avowed intention of safeguarding the nation against cybercrimes and maintaining standards of communication online. However, since its implementation, the act has rightfully raised concerns about its potential to infringe upon fundamental rights, especially the freedom of the media.
While the government's efforts to address cybercrimes are commendable, and indeed with technology being ever-present, this is more important than ever, the DSA went far beyond what was necessary to provide legitimate cybersecurity, and was too often weaponized to silence utterances and actors that should have remained within the pale, and used to target and harass journalists guilty of nothing more than doing their job.
We therefore applaud whole-heartedly the government’s announcement that it intends to replace the act with the Cyber Security Act 2023. 
The authorities concerned must be commended for the decision. The DSA has been the subject of debates, discussion, criticism, and controversy since its inception, and in attempting a reform, it tells us that those in power have been listening.
The Law Minister has already stated that defamation will not be a jailable offense under the new act, and this alone is a significant step in the right direction.
With that said, we shall have to wait and see how many of the other contentious issues with respect to the DSA will have been addressed and resolved by the new Cyber Security Act 2023, and what the final act looks like. 
But there can be no question that yesterday's announcement is welcome and praiseworthy. 
The DSA's impact on journalism and media was undeniably problematic; journalists and media outlets have faced legal actions for reporting on sensitive issues, hampering legitimate investigative journalism and the media's role as the fourth estate to check on official wrongdoing, abuse, and overreach. Cases have been bought on spurious grounds and thousands have ended up behind bars unjustly as a result.
As we continue to integrate further into the digital world, it is more important than ever to strike a balance between safeguarding security and upholding individual freedoms. To that end, it was clear that a review of the DSA was necessary.
Now that is being done, we must ensure that the new act aligns with our constitutional right and reasonable expectation of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. 
Clarity, more stringent checks and balances, and provisions that explicitly protect legitimate journalistic activities -- or indeed removes legitimate journalism from its purview -- can help the new act have not just legitimacy, but public confidence.
The marker for any nation’s progress is not just about its economic prosperity -- it is in the evolution of the laws and policies that define the country. 
Let us now all work together, the government, the media, and civil society, to give the country a law that is worthy of the Bangladeshi people and that will provide the security needed while at the same time ensuring that our voices will not be silenced. 
Let the framing of the law be a template for how the government can work hand in hand with the people of this country to create policies and legislation that will continue to take this nation forward and that we can all be proud of. 
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