Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday dismissed any discussion on concerns expressed by newspaper editors over the Digital Security Act, saying that there was no scope for discussion as the law was already enacted by parliament.
Ministers said that information minister Hasanul Haq Inu raised the issue of the concerns expressed by the Editors’ Council, association of editors of national dailies, at the weekly cabinet meeting on the day at the Cabinet Division, while placing Broadcasting Bill and Mass Media Employees (Conditions of Service) Bill for approval.
‘There is no scope for discussion as it [Digital Security Act] is already a law,’ a cabinet member quoted Hasina to have told Inu.
Asked for comment, Inu told New Age that the issue was discussed in the cabinet. ‘This law has no relation with journalists and they should not have anything to worry about,’ he said.
After a meeting with Editors’ Council at secretariat on September 30, law minister Anisul Huq, in the presence of information minister Hasanul Haq Inu, posts, telecommunications and ICT minister Mustafa Jabbar and prime minister’s media adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, assured that they would place the editors’ concerns about digital security bill before the cabinet.
Law minister on September 30 said they would again sit with the editors after discussion in cabinet to address the concerns through dialogues.
The government arranged the meetings as the Editors’ Council called a human chain protesting at the digital security bill on September 29. Editors’ Council postponed the human chain, accepting the information minister’s request for talks.
The Editors’ Council, at a press conference on Saturday, expressed surprise that nothing was done in spite of public commitment by three ministers and media adviser to the prime minister to raise their concerns to the cabinet and open a dialogue with the stakeholders to work out acceptable changes in the Digital Security Act.
It said that the ministers failed to keep their promise to place the editors’ concern before the cabinet.
The Editors’ Council expressed concern about nine sections and demanded amendment to Sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, 43 and 53 of the act in the last session of the present parliament, which would begin on October 21.
Founded in 2013, Editors’ Council was vocal against the Digital Security Act since the bill was placed in parliament. The council said that the law was against fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution.
It was also against the spirit of freedom enshrined in the Liberation War, democracy and democratic governance and rights gained through struggles at various stages of country’s history, the council said.
Jatiya Sangsad on September 19 passed the Digital Security Bill, ignoring the concerns expressed by different national and international quarters including the Editors’ Council as it posed threats to freedom of speech and press freedom.
President Abdul Hamid on October 8 assented to the Digital Security Bill transforming it into an act, ignoring calls from national and international journalists, freethinkers and rights groups for returning it to parliament for a revision.
Mentioning minister’s comment that the door for the discussion [on Council’s demands and concerns] was not closed, Editors’ Council general secretary Mahfuz Anam while addressing a human chain on Monday morning said, ‘We are happy that the door for discussion is open, but we don’t want discussion for the sake of discussion only. There should be no farce in the name of discussion.’
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