Rights activists on Saturday objected to inclusion of 22 ‘repressive provisions’ in the Digital Security Bill 2018 saying they seek to infringe upon the fundamental rights of citizens and freedom of expression and press.
Speaking at a discussion they said that the government was determined to enact the draconian law to stifle the voice of dissension to tighten its grip on state power.
They said that the proposed law would empower the police to harass critics of the government.
They said at least six repressive provisions of the ‘controversial Section 57’ of the Information and Communication Technology Act 2006 had been incorporated in the Digital Security Bill.
Supreme Court lawyer Shahdeen Malik described the Digital Security Bill’s sections 17 to 38 as ‘dangerous’ as these 22 draconian sections could be used to harass computer users.
The bill contains 63sections, said Shahdeen.
He said that the fundamental rights to privacy of correspondence enshrined in Article 43 of the Constitution would be infringed as the bill seeks to empower the police to ask the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Authority to block any website if the police considered the site to be ‘objectionable’.
Gagging critics is the main motive of making the draconian bill, said Shahdeen.
Now it is done by the government by using ICT Act’s Section 57, he said.
He said that the bill could be used to rob citizens right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution in Article 39.
Citizens’ fundamental rights can in no way be infringed except for during an emergency, he said.
Shahdeen said that the freedom of press could be fully infringed by all the 22 draconian provisions in the Digital Security Bill.
Shahdeen said that a digital security law was necessary only to hacking related offences.
Lawyer and rights campaigner Sara Hossain said that the Digital Security Bill was designed to infringe safety of individuals.
‘All the stipulations in the bill contradict the spirit of the Liberation War and Bangabandhu’s struggles for the creation of a society free from repressions,’ said rights activist and chief executive officer of the Institute of Information and Development Syeed Ahamed.
He said, ‘Bangabandhu articulated these lofty objectives in his unfinished autobiography.’
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua described the Digital Security Bill as ‘totally unnecessary’ as all the Penal Code provided ample scope to try all the offences made punishable in the controversial bill.
He said that the Digital Security Bill only seeks to provide greater punishments for the offences.
The discussion on ‘ Fundamental Rights vis-a -vis the Digital Security Bill was organized by Moulik Odhikar Shurokkha Committee (Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights) at the Dhaka Reporters Unity.
Right activist Shireen Pervin Huq moderated the discussions attended by rights activist Farida Akhter and journalist and founder of Drik and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute Shahidul Alam.
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