New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch in a report on Thursday found there was no place for criticism in Bangladesh, noting that scores of people were arrested over the past five years here under section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act for criticising the government and others in social media.
In an 89-page report titled ‘No Place for Criticism: Bangladesh Crackdown on Social Media Commentary’, the rights group detailed dozens of arbitrary arrests since the ICT Act 2006 was amended in 2013.
A proposed Digital Security Bill to replace the existing abusive law is in some respects even broader than the one it seeks to replace and violates the country’s international obligation to protect freedom of speech, it observed.
‘Bangladesh authorities should accept that criticism, however unpleasant and hurtful, is part of public life and can serve to correct mistakes and provide redress,’ said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
As of April 2018, the police had submitted 1,271 charge sheets to the Cyber Tribunal in Dhaka, claiming sufficient evidence to prosecute accused under section 57 of the ICT Act.
‘The government of Bangladesh acknowledges that the current section 57 of the ICT Act is draconian, and needs to go,’ he said, adding that ‘the new law being proposed is hardly an improvement.’
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