The research report was published in a webinar organised by CGS titled 'Unending Nightmare-Impacts of Bangladesh's Digital Security Act 2018' on Saturday.

A research group led by Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor at the University of Illinois State University in the United States, compiled the research report on data from 890 cases filed in the 26 months from January 2020 to February this year.

You have to think even when writing a book. That's why I write travel stories
M Sakhawat Hossain, Former Election Commissioner

Professor Ali Riaz presented the research report in the webinar. It is said that the rate of filing cases under the Digital Security Act is increasing. In the first 15 months from 1 January, 2020 to March 2021, 426 cases were filed against 913 people. At that time 273 people were arrested. On an average, 60.06 people have been charged in a month and 18 people have been arrested.

In the next nine months, 464 cases were filed against 1,331 people. Total 609 people were arrested in these cases. On an average, 147 people have been charged in a month, 67 people have been arrested and more than 51 cases have been registered. During this time, there were 97 cases filed on allegation of insulting the Prime Minister, 51 cases for insulting the ministers and 65 cases on allegation of insulting the political leaders. Most of the complainants are politicians. Again, the victims were mostly politicians and journalists.

Professor Ali Riaz also expressed concern over the regulations being made on OTT and social media.

Former Election Commissioner M Sakhawat Hossain said he had to ponder before writing articles because of the Digital Security Act. "I don't use Facebook, I don't respond to most e-mails," he said. “You have to think even when writing a book. That's why I write travel stories.”

Badiul Alam Majumder of Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) said that in an authoritarian system, the government deprives the rights by enacting and enforcing laws. In 2018, two laws were enacted, the Digital Safety Act and the Safe Roads Act. The use of the Digital Security Act was immediately implemented, but the other law did not.

Lawyer Tania Amir said the lack of elaboration for allegations such as tarnishing the image of the state and hurting religious sentiments created an opportunity for abuse. She said, "If the image is not tarnished by doing wrong, then why is the image tarnished if somebody writes or speaks of injustice?"

Faruq Faisel, Regional Director for Bangladesh and South Asia at Article 19, said not just children, housewives too have been arrested in cases filed under the Digital Security Act. The new concern was the OTT regulation. It will be stricter than the Digital Security Act. There is an attempt to seize the personal information of the people in the name of data protection, he added.

CGS executive director Zillur Rahman moderated the webinar presided by CGS Chairman Manzur Ahmed Chowdhury.

Read more from Bangladesh
Post Comment