A parliamentary standing committee on Sunday decided to hold talks with the stakeholders on the Digital Security Bill.
A meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on telecommunication and ICT ministry, with its chairman Imran Ahmed in the chair, decided to hold more meetings and discussions with the stakeholders, including Editors’ Council, Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists and Association of Television Channel Owners.
The meetings will be held by the end of May, Imran Ahmed told reporters after the meeting.
The committee members discussed the bill elaborately and proposed some corrections in some of the provisions, meeting sources said.
Committee members telecommunication minister Mustafa Jabbar, state minister for ICT Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Moazzem Hossain Ratan, Shawkat Hasanur Rahman and Hosne Ara Lutfa attended the meeting.
Law minister Anisul Huq also attended the meeting on a special invitation.
The government on April 9 tabled the much-talked-about Digital Security Bill 2018 in parliament.
Editors’ Council expressed its concern over some sections of the bill at a meeting with law minister Anisul Huq on April 19 where Mostafa Jabbar and Zunaid Ahmed Palak were present.
The editors of the national dailies demanded removal of some provisions that were undemocratic and
would curtail freedom of expression and press.
After the meeting with the editors, Anisul had said that he would request the standing committee for inviting editors to its meeting on the bill.
Different quarters including, Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, journalists, rights activists and ambassadors of different countries in Dhaka expressed deep concern over the proposed law for the inclusion of the Section-57 of the Information and Communications Technology Act and some strict provisions in the Digital Security Bill.
They also demanded that the bill should be finalised following discussions with all stakeholders.
The government on several occasions said that Section 57 of the ICT Act dealing with defamation, hurting religious sentiments, causing deterioration of law and order and instigating against any person or organisation through publishing or transmitting any material in websites or in electronic form would be dropped.
The bill split the offences into four separate sections (21, 25, 28 and 29) warranting jail for 3-10 years.
The cabinet on January 29 approved the bill.
Section 21 of the proposed law says anyone spreading negative propaganda against the Liberation War or the Father of the Nation, using digital devices or instigates to do so will be punishable with jail for a term up to 14 years or a fine Tk 1 crore or both.
A person will face life sentence or Tk 3 crore fine or both for committing the offence for the second time, it said.
Editors’ Council said that ‘Sections 21, 25, 28, 31, 32 and 43 of the bill were directly against the freedom of expression and will hamper freedom of the press as well.
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