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Bangladesh editors protest ‘chilling’ Digital Security Act | Freedom of the press News


Dhaka, Bangladesh – Newspaper editors in Bangladesh have staged a protest in opposition to a brand new virtual safety regulation they are saying could have a “chilling effect” on press freedom in the nation.

Sixteen contributors of a most sensible editors council shaped a human chain in entrance of the National Press Club in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in an extraordinary protest on Monday, calling for an overhaul of the Digital Security Act.

They carried a banner urging the govt to “abolish anti- free speech” provisions in the lately enacted regulation.

Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Bangladesh’s greatest English-language newspaper, Daily Star, learn out {seven} calls for, including the scrapping of 9 sections in the act which he mentioned will curb media freedoms in the nation.

“This law is incongruent with the intellectual environment of the digital age,” he advised Al Jazeera.

“The growth of digital Bangladesh will be stifled.”

Zafar Sobhan, editor of Dhaka Tribune, mentioned the regulation “will have a chilling effect on media freedom”.

‘Black regulation’

The regulation – which got here into impact on October eight in spite of fashionable grievance from reporters and human rights activists – authorises jail sentences for as much as 14 years for any person who secretly data govt officers or gathers knowledge from a central authority company the usage of a pc or different virtual tool.

It additionally units an identical punishments for – People who unfold “negative propaganda” about the nation’s 1971 struggle of independence and its founding chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The protesting editors mentioned they have been additionally worried over a provision that permits police to arrest reporters and confiscate their apparatus and not using a courtroom order.

They concern such punishments will impede investigative journalism and efforts to show corruption in the South Asian nation. 

WATCH: Are Bangladesh’s media freedoms eroding? (9:17)

However, Hasanul Haq Inu, knowledge – Minister, disregarded the reporters’ issues, announcing the govt “enacted the law to protect citizens from increasing cyber crimes” and “not to control the work of media professionals”.

The govt has no plan to amend the regulation, he mentioned.

Earlier in the month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina advised journalists those that follow fair journalism and not using a “criminal mindset” or “plan to commit an offence” needn’t fear about the new regulation.

The primary opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has termed the Digital Security Act a “black law”, and its leaders have pledged to scrap it in the event that they take energy generally elections, scheduled for both December or January.

Critics of the regulation say it may also be used in opposition to dissidents, and used to be extra draconian than the Information and Communication Technology Act, which has been used to target ratings of – People, including reporters, for criticising the govt.

In August, Shahidul Alam, a photographer, used to be arrested beneath that regulation for “spreading misinformation and propaganda” in opposition to the govt. He remains in state custody.

Olof Blomqvist, analysis and advocacy director with ASEAN parliamentarians for human rights, mentioned it used to be “disturbing” that the govt – as an alternative of making improvements to the ICT Act – “introduced a new law that against flouts international human rights standards”. 

WATCH: Speaking the unspeakable in Bangladesh (25:00)

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