THE president has already signed the Digital Security Bill 2018 into a law, amidst genuine concerns of media practitioners and reservations of internet users, after the parliament secretariat forwarded it on October 4 to the president following the bill’s passage in the parliament on September 19. With this, about a week that went by witnessed two shocking happenings — one is the event of president’s giving assent to the law, amidst general concerns that the law would expose the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media to difficulty and the other is the government’s failure, if not unwillingness, to discuss the concerns about the bill that the Editors’ Council and other journalists’ organisations took up with three ministers at meetings on September 30 at any of the two weekly cabinet meetings that, meanwhile, took place. The ministers at the meeting assured the editors and journalists that they would discuss the concerns at the cabinet meeting. Instead of keeping the promise, ranking leaders of the government, meanwhile, started preaching how the law would not hamper the work of journalists. Concerns of journalists and rights groups, at home and abroad, have, unfortunately, remained unheeded.
The law minster, Anisul Huq, as New Age reported on Tuesday, seeks to say that the concern of the journalists could not be discussed because of too many issues being on the agenda of the cabinet meeting that took place on Monday, which points to the fact that the concerns of journalists were not a priority for the government and the government was hell bent on somehow having the law signed into an act. The minister, however, says that he would keep the words given to journalists. The Editors’ Council in April met the law and the information and communications technology minister and talked about the concerns when the law minister said that the concerns were ‘largely logical’ and gave assurances for mitigation. The Editors’ Council rejects eight sections of the law — 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32 and 43 — that precariously expose the freedom of expression and of the media to threats, saying that the law is also opposed to the basic practice of democracy and the fundamental principles of journalism. The Editors’ Council asserts that the law would also expose to threat free thinking and the expression of thoughts in the whole of digital sphere, including social networking sites, blogs and web sites, having the potential in the furtherance of a suspect society. Besides, many academics have already stated that certain provisions of the law would stand in the way of objective research in history.
All that has so far happened on part of the government, and the attitude that it has so far showed, centring on the enactment of the Digital Security Act 2018 has hardly left any scope for editors, journalists and thinking sections of society but to step up their efforts to push for their democratic demand for amendment to at least the eight sections in question in the law.
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