Steps will be taken to remove any confusion over the freedom of press if there is any in the proposed Digital Security Act, 2018, Law Minister Anisul Huq said today.
The minister came up with the assurance while talking to reporters after a meeting with leaders of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ) at the Secretariat today.
As the draft of the proposed law is now under consideration of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Post, Telecom and ICT, discussions will be held and decision will be taken there in this regard, the minister said.
A decision was taken yesterday that the parliamentary standing committee will hold discussions with the Editors’ Council, BFUJ and Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO) on this issue at the last phase in May this year, he also informed.
The BFUJ leaders during the meeting recommended amendment to the proposed Digital Security Act, incorporating a provision for forming a cell under the Bangladesh Press Council saying that this law cannot be applied for journalists or media without approval from this cell.
“There must be a special measure for using any provision of this law for the journalist or media and it cannot be instantly used for them. There will be a cell for Bangladesh Press Council where the allegations will be recorded. This law can be applied against any journalist or media only after getting approval from this cell. This law cannot be applied for journalists or media without approval from this cell,” BFUJ said in the proposal.
The BFUJ leaders led by its President Manjurual Ahsan Bulbul submitted the written proposal to Minister Anisul Huq at the meeting.
After the meeting, the minister said, “The demand made by the BFUJ regarding the proposed Digital Security Act is logical”.
Expressing concern over some sections of the proposed Act including its much talked about Section 32, the BFUJ leaders demanded to bring amendments to the sections for removing the loopholes and vagueness.
In the proposal, the journalists also made 10 observations about the proposed law alongside the “specific proposal” for formation of the cell under the Bangladesh Press Council.
BFUJ’s Secretary General Omar Faruk, Treasurer Madhusudan Mondal and Executive Member Syed Ishtiak Reza were present at the meeting.
The sections about which they made objection include Section 32 regarding spying, Section 31 regarding deterioration of the law and order situation, Section 29 regarding defamation, Section 28 regarding hurting religious sentiment, Section 25 regarding collecting attacking information and data, and Section 21 regarding the Liberation War and its spirit or campaign against the Father of the Nation.
BFUJ President Manjurul Ahsan Bulbul told reporters they demanded to the government to ensure institutionalised safety for the journalists and media after the parliament passes the bill on the Digital Security Act.
Earlier on April 18 when the Editors' Council met the law minister the latter assured the editors of removing loopholes and vagueness in the Digital Security Act through the editors' meeting with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Post, Telecom and ICT.
Editors' Council, an organisation of editors of the country's national dailies, expressed grave concern over section 21, 25, 28, 31, 32, and 43 of the proposed law. It said the sections would greatly hamper freedom of speech and independent journalism.