Implementation of the Digital Security Act (DSA) has created a scary situation, placing people’s freedom of expression in dire straits. The act is allegedly being misused in favour of the ruling elite. The situation is of grave concern to journalists.
These observations were shared at a virtual discussion organised by the Centre for Governance Studies on 5 April. Some participants demanded the cancellation of the DSA while others suggested an amendment of the act.
During the discussion, the US-based Illinois State University professor Ali Riaz presented a study titled 'Digital Security Act 2018'. Professor Riaz analysed some 426 cases lodged under the DSA in between January 2020 and 25 March 2021. He said, 31 out of 273 persons detained under the DSA in the mentioned period were journalists.
His study also pointed out that 104 out of 913 accused persons under the act were politicians and 97 journalists. Most of the plaintiffs were activists of the ruling Awami League and its associate groups. Among the law enforcement agencies, police filled the highest amount of complaints under the DSA.
Ali Riaz observed that the DSA was used to keep detainees languishing in jail. Many persons accused in such cases did not have access to bail.
“The existing DSA rather encourages injustice. Hence, there is no alternative but to repeal the act,” Riaz said.
Former information minister Hasanul Haq Inu, also the president of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal, spoke against repealing the act. He explained his position saying the number of detained journalists under the DSA was much less in comparison to the total number of those in the profession.
“The study reveals some faults in the process of DSA implementation, particularly by some law enforcement agencies,” Inu said.
Dhaka University’s law department professor Asif Nazrul said the DSA is being applied as a lethal weapon. “It is naturally alarming if a controversially elected government possesses such a weapon,” Nazrul added.
Editor of the English daily New Age, Nurul Kabir, said that existence of the DSA creates panic among journalists about its dire consequences.
CGS chairman Manjur Ahmed Chowdhury said some sections of the DSA were in contradiction to the fundamental rights of people. The event was moderated by CGS executive director Zillur Rahman.