Cyber Security Bill passed in parliament

Parliament in session
File photo

The Cyber Security Bill has been passed in parliament on Wednesday replacing the controversial Digital Security Act.

State minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak placed the proposed law in the House.

Prior to this, the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry concerned submitted its report after scrutinizing the bill.

On 5 September, state minister Zunaid Ahmed placed the bill.

"The offences under four sections - 17, 19, 27 and 33, have been made non-bailable in the proposed law," said the ICT state minister told parliament while placing the bill.

On 30 August, the cabinet granted final approval to the draft Cyber Security Act-2023, with incorporation of two new bailable sections. The bailable sections in the draft law are 18 (1) (b), 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, and 46.

During the in-principle approval at the cabinet, there were six non-bailable sections in the law. The number has now decreased to four with reclassification of sections 21 and 30 as bailable.

Regarding the changes, law minister Anisul Huq said on 7 August that just as the punishments in the proposed new law have been lessened, many non-bailable sections have been made bailable.

In the case of defamation, the prison sentence has been dropped and only provision for fines has been kept. Arrests are not made for defamation cases.

Since the proposed law saw no significant changes, it drew flak from various quarters.

At a press conference on 30 August, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) observed that the authorities have formulated the draft by merely placing a new cover on the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA).

The anti-graft watchdog noted civil society representatives’ concern over vague definitions of offences in the law. Journalists, lawyers, rights activists and civil society representatives expressed fear that the ambiguous definitions of offences and some striking similarities to the DSA might pave the way to harassment of people.

On August 10, the Editors’ Council said in a statement that the government took a decision in principle to enact a new law transforming the Digital Security Act (DSA). This justifies the worries the Editors’ Council and other stakeholders in the news media have been voicing for long.

“We also want punishment for crimes committed through digital or cyber media. But it is necessary to hold discussions with the news media stakeholders before finalising the act so that the proposed Cyber Security Act does not turn into a weapon like the Digital Security Act to snatch press freedom. Besides, as the government has taken the decision to cancel the Digital Security Act, let the cases filed under this act be withdrawn and the people who are already behind bars having been arrested under this act, be freed,” the Editors’ Council said.