The Cyber Security Act, the new law posed to replace the Digital Security Act, will not have provision to sentence journalists to imprisonment for defamation, law minister Anisul Huq has told Prothom Alo.
The minister said, the Digital Security Act is being changed. Many sections of this law will be added to the new Cyber Security Act and some sections will be amended.
The decision to abolish the Digital Security Act and enact a new law was taken today, Monday, at the cabinet meeting. The government will enact the new Cyber Security Act in its stead.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, law minister Anisul Huq said that in the Digital Security Act there was provision for prison sentence in the case of defamation in any news report. In the new law this has been changed and replaced with provision for fine.
He said that the fines will be the same for journalists as in the case of civil suits. He said, when the new Cyber Security Act is enacted, the Digital Security Act will no longer be there.
The government brought the Digital Security Act into effect in 2018 in face of strong protest within the country. It is alleged that from then on this law has been used to suppress any form of dissent.
The law was used the most against opposition politicians, journalists and teachers. It is also alleged that the law has been used disproportionately more against the minorities.
Various quarters has raised the demand for the law to be abolished or amended. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk on 1 April this year had called upon the Bangladesh government to immediately halt the application of the Digital Security Act.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reviewed the Digital Security Act and in June last year submitted recommendations in this regard to the Bangladesh government. The recommendations, under the name of 'OHCHR Technical Note to the Government of Bangladesh on Review of the Digital Security Act' called for the complete abolition of two sections of the act, as well as eight amendments.
The law minister Anisul Huq this year had several times said that the Digital Security Act would be amended, not abolished. He made a commitment to amend the act by September.
The decision was taken at today's cabinet meeting to abolish the act and enact the Cyber Security Act-2023.