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1 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Ditching Section 57

Ditching Section 57

Sections of society have welcomed the decision by the government to revoke the controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), hailing the move as a step towards ensuring freedom of expression. After an inter-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, two senior ministers representing the department of law and information clearly stated that the 57 along with some other sections would be deleted from the draft Digital Security Act to be placed before the winter parliamentary session.

Needless to say that the section 57, which has the provision to detain and incarcerate an offender up to 14 years for electronically posting defamatory comments hurting religious sentiments and undermine the country, has been believed to be widely abused to harass and, in several cases, circumscribe the media. Reportedly, over two dozen journalists were sued under this dreaded act while countless cases were filed against people with the clear intent to intimidate and repress.

In view of a wide public protest representing the intelligentsia, media and civil society, the government’s swift move to rescind the much reviled act is indeed a step towards the right direction. For a fast evolving nation like Bangladesh, any act which is deemed a threat to freedom of expression will be a major hurdle towards its aspiration to boldly emerge as a middle income nation by 2021.

However, while we rejoice the judicious move by the authority, it must be kept in mind that freedom to express our opinion does not mean unrestrained rhetoric that may sow seeds of social disharmony. We are told that while the section 57 will be repealed, responsible freedom of speech will be delineated in the newly drafted Digital Security Act and placed in parliament for approval. But we unequivocally express that if the draconian provisions of Section 57 return to Digital Security Act that would not be acceptable.  

However, the government deserves kudos for taking into account the protests of several sections of society which deemed the previous act as a tool which could be manipulated to severely restrict the media. It’s always wise to remember that no country has made progress in a democratic system by containing journalism and journalists. At one point or the other, measures to muzzle the media have erupted into a full blown social upheaval.

As we praise the decision, we also feel that in a time when society everywhere is deluged under counterfeit news, fabricated reports and doctored social media images, an unambiguous guideline is essential to prevent false items from fomenting discord. It is expected that the new act will ensure more transparency, allowing the media to responsibly do their duty in a free environment.  

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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