Monday, 25 January 2021

Bangladesh enacts digital law despite protests

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s president signed on Monday a digital security act into law on Monday despite protests by journalists and rights groups that it will severely curb media freedom.

“The digital security bill has been signed by the president today,” President Abdul Hamid’s spokesman Joynal Abedin told AFP.

Top editors and journalists had a last-minute meeting with government ministers demanding that some sections of the legislation be changed.

The law minister promised that he would discuss the issues but the president went ahead and signed the act into law without waiting.

The law, which carries heavy jail sentences for secretly recording government officials or spreading “negative propaganda” using a smartphone or computer, already had parliamentary approval.

Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International’s (TI) Bangladesh chapter slammed the move in an immediate reaction.

“We are very disappointed,” TI Bangladesh spokesman Sheikh Manjur E Alam told AFP.

“But we firmly want to believe it won’t be used or abused before the government has a discussion as was promised about the amendment of the law,” he said.

Hundreds of journalists have staged demonstrations against the law in recent days and editors have said the law poses serious threats to freedom of expression and media in the country.

Sampadak Parishad, a council of top editors, urged authorities not to pass the law, saying it would seriously curtail democracy in the south Asian country.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a press briefing last week backed the law. She told journalists that “if there is no criminal mind, there is no reason to worry”.

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