THE information minister telling owners of private television channels not to air incidents that go against the government’s ‘ongoing development activities’ is concerning. This is so because the phrase ‘development activities’, which the minister used, is left to wider interpretations and could mean something on the down side even when authorities carrying out the activities would want to project them positively. The minister said to a delegation of the Association of Television Channel Owners in his office at the secretariat to discuss issues related to the Digital Security Bill 2018, which is now ready for placement in the parliament for its passage. What the government thinks to be positive could entirely mean nothing so positive for citizens especially when the government is presided over by a political party which has ensured its authority to form the government by having 153 out of the 300 parliamentary constituencies elected uncontested before the actual polling took place in January 2014.
What remains worrying is that the government has already been in the process of the passage of the Digital Security Bill, which has in its Section 32 the infamous provisions of Section 57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act 2006. Section 57 of the ICT Act is also spread veiled across Section 25, 28, 29 and 31, which prompted the Editors’ Council to demand the cancellation of both Section 32 of the Digital Security Bill and Section 57 of the ICT Act. The ICT Act provision, since its enforcement, has so far been only abused and misused to thwart dissenting voice, political or social. Besides, the government might think that it is carrying out ‘development activities’ by forcing the continuation of a crisis-time measure called quick rental power, but this by no means should mean development for citizens as they need to pay increased prices for power. The government has largely left cheap power from state-owned plants ignored by not putting in efforts to develop the public-sector plants. The high highway and flyover construction cost could be another example. The cost of a kilometre of the four-lane Dhaka-Mawa Highway was set at Tk 1.18 billion while the cost in Europe, generally, is Tk 280 million. The cost for a kilometre of a flyover in Dhaka came to stand at Tk 1.86 billion while the figure is, generally, Tk 1 billion in India and Tk 700 million in Pakistan.
All that the government is carrying out in the name of ‘development activities’ may, therefore, not be development at all for citizens. It is in this contest the minister’s telling private television channels not to air something that goes against the government’s narrative reeks of coercive intent that is underlying in the Digital Security Bill. The government must, therefore, rethink its ‘development projects’ for the benefits of the citizens and must also not proceed with the digital security law, as it stands now.
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