Promises of three ministers

The editor’s council feared the DSA would undermine the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of the media. They expressed their concerns and arguments in various ways.

The council released an explanation to the media 10 days after the DSA bill was passed in parliament on 29 September 2018. The statement highlighted the reasons why they are expressing concern and to which sections they have objections.

On 30 September, the Editor’s Council met with the information minister Hasanul Haq Inu, law minister Anisul Huq, post and telecommunication minister Mustafa Jabbar and the then information affairs adviser to the prime minister Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury.

The three ministers then promised that the concerns of the Editor’s Council would be raised at a cabinet meeting and further discussions would be held to amend the law. But the next two cabinet meetings did not hold any discussion regarding the issue.

The president of Editor’s Council and the editor of the Daily Star Mahfuz Anam told Prothom Alo on Saturday night that, the government never called the Editor’s Council to discuss on the act after it was promulgated.

He said under this act, punishment can be given in 20 areas. Of these, 14 are non-bailable. There is also a lot of vagueness in the law. Along with that when it is misused, it gets hard and harder. That’s what is happening now.

When asked whether any demand would be raised to amend the act on behalf of editor’s council, Mahfuz Anam said, “We are taking initiative to discuss the issue among ourselves”.

Objections of different local and international organisations ignored too

After the law was passed in the parliament in 2018, various organisations requested the president not to sign the bill.

Among the organisations that raised concerns were Amnesty International, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), Citizens for Good Governance (Sujan), Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ), Dhaka Union of Journalists (DUJ) and 12 other journalist organisations.

The UN Human Rights Council also called for a review of the law after the president signed it. Now, different organisations are issuing statements on this law after the custodial death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed.

Diplomats from 13 countries said in a statement on Friday that the governments of the OECD countries were "deeply concerned" about the provisions of the DSA and its implementation.

The TIB said in a statement on Saturday that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the DSA is being used to curb the freedom of expression of dissenters and critics.

Bring amendments to nine sections

Expressing grave concern, editor’s council urged the government to amend the sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, 43, and 53 of the Digital Security Act appropriately to safeguard the freedom of the media and the freedom of speech.

This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online edition, and has been rewritten in English by NH Sajjad

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