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3 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM
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Draft Digital security act 2018

AL allies decry ‘controversial section’

Abu Jakir
AL allies decry ‘controversial section’

The alliance partners of the Awami League (AL) have expressed their reservations against “some controversial sections” of the draft Digital Security Act 2018, which the Cabinet has just approved. Alliance leaders said these controversial sections should be dropped before the bill is placed in Parliament.

On Monday, the government approved the much-talked-about draft of the Digital Security Act 2018, incorporating certain provisions of the controversial Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. In the face of widespread criticism from different quarters, the government abolished Section 57 of the ICT Act. But the provisions remain in the Digital Security Act in a different form, with the ‘crimes and punishments’ defined there.

According to Section 57 of the ICT Act, if a person deliberately publishes any material in the electronic form which causes the deterioration of law and order, tarnishes the image of the state or a person, or hurts religious beliefs, the offender shall be punished with a maximum of 14 years and a minimum of seven years of imprisonment. It also suggested that the crime would be non-bailable. In the draft Digital Security Act, the crimes, as defined by Section 57, have simply been segregated.

Rashed Khan Menon, president of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh and the social welfare minister, told The Independent yesterday that the government would pass the Digital Security Act to curb cyber crimes.

“I’m yet to read the full draft of the Digital Security Act, but I can say that a section of the draft act may put the freedom of expression at stake. So the government should further scrutinise the section before passing the draft act in parliament,” he said.

Jatiya Party Co-Chairman GM Quader said: “General activities of mass media and freedom of expression will be hampered if the draft Digital Security Act 2018 is passed in parliament without bringing any change.” The culture of accountability of government officials and legislators would also be decreased significantly if the existing draft is passed, he added.

Former industries minister Dilip Barua, also the general secretary of Bangladesher Samyabadi Dal, told this correspondent yesterday that even though the Cabinet has just approved the draft, there is still time to scrutinise it.

“I think that the government should scrutinise the draft before passing it as a law,” he said. Sharif Nurul Ambia, a factional chief of the Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), said there is still need to scrutinise the draft for the sake of freedom of expression.  Another AL alliance leader said on condition of anonymity that the Digital Security Act is likely to hinder the building of a digital Bangladesh, which is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dream.

“On the one hand, the government is trying to make the country go digital. On the other, it is discouraging the use of technology. This will take Bangladesh back a few steps, especially in terms of freedom of expression,” he added.

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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.

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