A parliamentary watchdog has finalised the proposed Digital Security Bill, 2018 with recommendation of punishment for defaming the national flag and national anthem.
The parliamentary standing committee on posts, telecommunication and ICT has recommended 14-year imprisonment and a fine of Tk 1 crore for the offence.
The decision was made during the 3rd adjourned meeting of the committee held Wednesday at Parliament Secretariat with the committee chairman, Imran Ahmed, in the chair.
Emerging from the meeting, law minister Anisul Huq told reporters that the proposed bill would likely be passed in the next parliamentary session scheduled for the second week of September.
‘We have incorporated the provision of imprisonment and financial penalty in the proposed Digital Security Bill for defaming the national flag and the national anthem,’ Imran Ahmed told reporters after the meeting.
Apart from this, the body also decided to bring a change to Section 32 of the much-talked-about Digital Security Act, 2018.
The body may drop the words ‘digital spying’ from the section.
The much-debated Digital Security Bill, 2018 was placed in parliament on April 9 amid growing concerns from journalists and rights activists over some contents of the law.
The committee was given four weeks to place its report before the house following scrutiny of the bill. The house on June 6 gave two more months to the parliamentary watchdog for further scrutiny of the bill.
Amid concerns of journalists, the parliamentary standing committee first invited the stakeholders on May 22 to have their views on the bill.
Journalist leaders voiced concerns over sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 43 of the proposed law.
They said these sections would greatly curb the freedom of speech.
Section 21 of the proposed law says that anyone spreading negative propaganda against the liberation war or the father of the nation, using digital devices or instigating to do so, will risk being sentenced to up to 14 years in jail or fined up to Tk 1 crore or both.
He or she will face up to life sentence or Tk 3 crore in fine or both for committing the offence for the second time, it says.
The committee has added the provision of imprisonment and financial penalty for undermining the national flag and national anthem.
According to Section 25 of the proposed law, a person may face up to three years in jail or Tk 3 lakh in fine or both if he is found to have deliberately published or broadcast in a website or electronic form something which is attacking or intimidating or which can make someone feel disgruntled; knowingly published or broadcast false and distorted (full or partial) information to annoy or humiliate someone; knowingly published or broadcast false and distorted (full or partial) information to tarnish the image of the state or to spread rumours.
Second-time offenders will face up to five years in jail or Tk 10 lakh fine or both.
Committee members, including Zunaid Ahmed Palak and Hosne Ara Lutfa Dalia attended the meeting.
ICT minister Mustafa Jabbar and law minister Anisul Huq also attended the meeting on a special invitation.
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