Law, justice and parliamentary affairs minister Anisul Huq has said no journalist can be arrested immediately after filing of case against him under the Digital Security Act (DSA). He has to be summoned. And, the journalist will get the opportunity to seek bail from the court.
The minister said this in response to questions from newspersons at a programme ‘Meet the OCAB’. The programme was organised by Overseas Correspondents Association Bangladesh (OCAB) at National Press Club in the capital on Thursday afternoon.
Anisul Huq said if any case is filed against any journalist under the Digital Security Act it will go to a cell of ICT Act 2006. The case will be accepted if the cell in its investigation finds any merit in the lawsuit. Police station have already been directed to this end though no office order has been issued about this, he added.
The law minister also acknowledged that there were incidents of misuse and abuse of the Digital Security Act. Because of this, the minister continued, there is a perception that the law has been enacted to curb press freedom and freedom of expression. “Actually, the law has not been made to stop or curb any of that.”
Mentioning that the crimes that are mentioned in the penal code have been introduced in the Digital Security Act, Anisul Huq said it has been observed that the crimes that used to be committed through digital medium are no longer done digitally. The Digital Security Act is required to curb crimes done using digital medium and returning from that.
The law minister further mentioned that he had discussion with home minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal about the matter. “We two have reached in a decision that if any case is filed against any journalist under the Digital Security Act, the court will not accept the case immediately and start proceedings. There is another law, ICT Act 2006. There is cell there that can investigate as to whether the case could be filed under the Digital Security Act. We have decided that any case filed under the Digital Security Act will go to that cell immediately. If it is decided upon the investigation of that cell that there are ingredients of the crime that has been complained under the Digital Security Act, only then the case will be accepted.”
Another decision has been made after the discussion with the home minister, said Anisul Huq. “A journalist will not be arrested immediately in any such case. Making arrests immediately has been fuelling this idea (curbing press freedom and freedom of expression). That is why no journalist can be arrested immediately. No journalist can be taken to jail as long as the investigation is not completed even if there is an allegation under the Digital Security Act. You must have observed that not many such incidents have been reported in the last six months.”
In response to a question about issuing office order, the law minister said, “We cannot issue any such order from the Executive to the Judiciary. What is being done is, I’ve information that, police stations were informed internally where police have the jurisdiction to make arrests.”
At that time, a journalist asked the minister, was this the reason that case was filed against Rozina Islam under the Official Secrets Act instead of the Digital Security Act? The law minister said “Can the case be filed under the Digital Security Act if anyone’s crimes do not fall within the jurisdiction of this act? Rozina surely did not commit any crimes under the Digital Security Act, that’s why the act was not used against her.”
The newsperson again asked, “But we heard first that Rozina Islam took snaps. That was through digital format and that’s why the case has been filed against her. Later, it was heard that the case was filed against her under the Official Secrets Act instead of the Digital Security Act because of a prescription of the law ministry.”
Law minister Anisul Huq said, “That means the law ministry’s prescription or my discussion has had an impact.”