The Digital Security Act-2018 (DSA) has succeeded in creating a culture of fear among the citizens. The law has been misused more in the last four years.
Discussants said this at a webinar organised by Center for Governance Studies (CGS) on use of DSA on Saturday.
Adviser of CGS and Illinois State University’s Political Science department’s distinguished professor Ali Riaz rolled out statistics on accused persons, identities of the detained persons and plaintiffs of the cases filed under the Digital Security Act.
He said DSA was enacted to create a culture of fear in the country. The law has been used to ensure that no one speaks up out of fear.
The speakers said a probe report is supposed to be submitted within 60 days in the cases filed under the act. If necessary, 15 more days can be added for submitting the report. But probe reports are not submitted within stipulated 75 days in many cases. The persons detained under the DSA have to spend a long time in jail without trial. At least 26 children under 18 years of age were accused under the act in the last four years.
The speakers at the webinar said information of 1,109 cases file under the DSA in the four years was available. A total of 2,889 persons were made accused in these cases. Of them, 38.74 per cent or 1,119 were detained.
Identities of 1,029 persons accused in the case were available. 301 of them were politicians, 280 journalists, 106 students and 51 teachers. The rate of detention is higher among the students as 71 per cent of the accused students were detained
This is not the holistic picture of the cases filed under the DSA since the law enforcers do not want to reveal information of the cases, said the webinar.
Identities of 1,029 persons accused in the case were available. 301 of them were politicians, 280 journalists, 106 students and 51 teachers. The rate of detention is higher among the students as 71 per cent of the accused students were detained.
The webinar revealed that 140 of the cases, accusing 210 people, were filed on allegations of criticising the prime minister. A total of 115 of them were arrested. Most of the cases were filed by the supporters of the politicians.
Speakers said DSA has been used to muzzle people’s voices on Facebook. On average, 9 cases were filed every month centering opinions on Facebook. A total of 698 cases filed over opinions expressed on Facebook. 115 of these cases were about hurting religious sentiment, 44 over financial fraudulence and 76 over harassment. The remaining 463 cases seem to be politically charged.
The speakers said DSA has become a noose for the journalists, especially for those who work outside the cities. Law enforcers and government officials have filed four DSA cases per month on average. Cases were filed most under articles 25,29,31 and 35 of the law. The court had raised question whether the articles 25 and 31 are contradictory to the constitution of the country.
Global TV’s chief editor Syed Ishtiaque Reza said the statistics show that the DSA has been misused more in last four years. The progressive section of the society has been victimised more under the act.
Brac University school of law’s senior lecturer Saimum Talukder said this law in vague and should be repealed in no time.
Journalist Masud Kamal said the law was enacted with a view to spreading an all-pervasive fear. This law is doesn’t seem to be applied for a section of people of the society including police, law enforcers, administration and ministers.
Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation’s chairman Alena Khan said the DSA has been used as a tool of repression. The statistics show that human rights activists, journalists and all are at risk.
CGS executive director Zillur Rahman moderated the webinar.
He said there is a crisis of democracy, human rights, rule of law and freedom of speech in the country. The culture of fear that had been prevalent here for a long time found more vigour with the enactment of the DSA.
CGS chairman Manzur Ahmed Chowdhury said DSA does not get used against those who are politically powerful.