The US ambassador further said, “The United States has made our concerns about the DSA clear, both in our Annual Human Right Report and in meetings with government officials. We are also concerned about the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s draft “Regulation for Digital, Social Media and Over-the-Top Platforms” and the draft “Data Protection Act.” While neither draft has been finalised, we fear they contain provisions which could be used to further intimidate journalists and others eager to express themselves.”
Peter Haas further said, “While journalists play a critical role every day, they play an even more important role in elections. And we are all seeing an uptick in the number of news reports related to the upcoming national elections here in Bangladesh.” He said, “The United States’ policy on the Bangladeshi elections – or anywhere for that matter – is that the people of the country should have the ability to choose their own government through free and fair elections conducted in accordance with international standards.”
The Japanese ambassador to Bangladesh Ito Naoki said, Freedom of press is the basis of democracy. So, it’s crucial to ensure the freedom of the press. In Bangladesh’s constitution, the freedom of the press has been ensured. So, it’s important to make sure that an act like the Digital Security Act doesn’t disrupt the freedom of press. According to him, Bangladesh needs to improve their standard on all conditions relating to the development of democracy.
Ito Naoki further said, “I’s certain, one of the main conditions of it is the freedom of the press. This is related with Bangladesh’s branding or image. I hope that Bangladesh will ensure effective freedom of press in accordance with its strides in development.”
Canadian High Commissioner in Dhaka Lilly Nicholls said, press plays a very important role in democracy. Media personnel handle pressure from different fronts and courageously perform their responsibilities.
British deputy high commissioner to Dhaka Zaved Patel said, “I want to applaud the Bangladeshi journalists for continuing to do their jobs under tremendous pressure and in difficult situations. We will continuously speak out about the challenges they are facing every day. It’s crucial for good governance.”
Zaved Patel further said, “I agree with what my colleagues have said about the importance of the press ahead of the next general election in Bangladesh. A free media will play a crucial role in the election process. Especially, media’s role would be crucial in providing accurate information and ensuring the transparency in the election. Bangladesh has a history of encouraging the freedom of the press. We have voiced our concerns about the Digital Security Act (DSC) to the government. We will continue encouraging them to make the required changes. We have encouraged the government to discuss with the concerned people about the proposed media law.”
Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman described the media situation in Bangladesh in the last five decades from his experience. He said, “Despite of risks pressures and pressures from different ends, the media has progressed. In 1962, when I was involved with student politics, we raised our voices during Ayub Khan’s military rule for the release of political prisoners, the freedom of press and the right of journalists to work without any restrictions. Now 60 years later, we are still talking about ensuring freedom of press, allowing journalists to work without any restrictions and fears.”
From his experience of working as the editor of Bhorer Kagoj and Prothom Alo he said, sometimes government advertisements stopped coming, sometimes private parties adverts stopped coming and sometimes cases get filed in different districts of the country to harass us. This has happened in BNP and Awami League governments. During the military backed caretaker government’s reign, there were discussions about shutting down Prothom Alo.
Matiur Rahman said, Digital Security Act is spreading fear and has emerged as a big obstacle in the way of free journalism. We also have concerns about the proposed Regulation for Digital, Social Media and Over-the-Top Platforms, Data Protection Act and Mass Media Employee Act.