'No amendment can improve DSA, annulment is only solution'

A group of people hold a rally in front of the Raju sculpture at Dhaka University campus on 6 April 2023, pressing forward a list of demands including the repeal of the Digital Security Act.
Prothom Alo file photo

The Digital Security Act is such a draconian law that it cannot be improved through any sort of amendment and should be completely scrapped. Not only journalists, children, minorities and women are not spared from this law.

Discussants at a webinar styled ‘Digital Security Act: Experience and apprehension’ said this on Monday. Forum for Bangladesh Studies organised the webinar.

Referring to a study conducted on the Digital Security Act, Illinois State University’s distinguished professor Ali Riaz  said at least 355 journalists, 403 politicians and even 26 children were made accused under Digital Security Act. And 21 of the accused children were arrested.

Although this law was made in the garb of protecting citizens, it has been proven in last four and half years that it is only a tool for safeguarding a certain quarter and ruling party
Ali Riaz

Another study till August last year revealed that 29 per cent of the plaintiffs were people related with government service and 40 per cent were directly involved with a political party.

“Although this law was made in the garb of protecting citizens, it has been proven in last four and half years that it is only a tool for safeguarding a certain quarter and ruling party,” Ali Riaz added.

He observed that the authorities have established ‘vigilante justice’ by making this law to create a culture of fear.

Noted lawyer Shahdeen Malik termed the Digital Security Act as an absurd law.

Article 19’s regional director Faruq Faisel said the police have been given unbridled power in this law and none are safe from being victim of Digital Security Act.

The use of Digital Security Act would be increased more in the run up to the next general election.

Faruq said the government set up eight cyber tribunals to hold trials of cybercrimes related cases but most of the people in charge of those tribunals do not seem to be well conversant with digital world.  

Lawyer Sara Hossain said not only journalists, but children, women and minority community people are also not being spared from the Digital Security Act.

Digital Security Act cases are being filed for even a like or comment on a Facebook post, she added.

Sara Hossain also blasted a section of journalists who did not raise their voice against the DSA.

Shapan Adnan, author and former professor of School of African and Oriental Studies in United Kingdom, expressed apprehension that the culture of fear created by the Digital Security Act would not just vanish even if the law is repealed because there are other laws and measures beyond legal measures to intimidate people.

“Yet this law should be abolished,” he said adding that the existing culture of fear are unlikely to change much without improvement of political situation.  

Badiul Alam Majumdar, secretary of Shushasoner Jonno Nagorik (SHUJAN), in his concluding speech said recent incident centering a Prothom Alo story and case against the daily’s editor and journalist would stoke the culture of fear and self-censorship.

“I think they (authorities) don’t even need Digital Security Act and other laws (to suppress voices) as they can do whatever they want without such laws. We don’t know if any protest would yield any result, yet we’ll have to continue our protests against the unconstitutional and draconian law like Digital Security Act,” he added.

Moderated by journalist Monir Haider, academician Mushfique Wadud, among others, spoke at the webinar.