Saying that the government enacted the Digital Security Act (DSA) to curb freedom of speech, Article 19 Bangladesh’s regional director Faruq Faisel said the DSA was enacted from a grey understanding that this law will protect the citizens.

“But actually the law does not protect citizens rather it is used against journalists and general citizens.”

He said as the government enacted the DSA before the last general election and they are going to enact three more laws—OTT, data protection and social media control law with the next election just a year later.

AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan, professor of Dhaka University’s television, film and photography department said media literacy is broadly absent in the country which spawns fake news.

He advocated media literacy campaign should be initiated at educational institutions and society as a whole so that people are aware of the hazards of fake news.

He said many countries are holding social media platforms responsible and Bangladesh should think of doing so to curb fake news.

“Bangladesh still lacks a comprehensive mechanism to deal with fake news,” he added.

Shafiul Alam also said fact-checking should be strengthened and even the government should have its own mechanism for fact-checking.  

Prothom Alo English web’s head Ayesha Kabir said fake news has enhanced the importance of the mainstream media as people check the veracity of information there.

She said, the news media needed to be extremely alert because if they carried wrong information or fake news, it gave the authorities the chance to justify certain draconian laws enacted to silence freedom of expression.

Replying to a question, Ayesha Kabir said the media should crosscheck information from multiple sources to avoid falling prey to fake news.

Fake news can have a very harmful impact on people not only mentally or psychologically but physically too, she added.

Clement Kanamugire, policy analyst of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), said fake news did much damage to people worldwide during the Covid period.

Leo Wigger, editor of Germany’s Zenith magazine moderated the session.