On 22 May, Bangladesh Law Minister Anisul Huq informed that the government will be taking cognizance of the eight sections that were raised by the journalist community. He also said that the Digital Security Bill will be redrafted, with specific definitions of terms and required addition or deletion.
“We (government) will consider the opinions of journalists. Their opposition is logical. We will redraft the law,” he said.
He had a meeting with the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Editors’ Council, Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO), and the parliamentary standing committee on post, telecommunications and ICT ministry at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban in the capital. After the meeting concluded, the law minister fielded queries asked by the journalists.
The bill was strongly opposed by the participants in the meeting, particularly the journalist community. The leaders said that the bill is against the freedom of speech and independent journalism.
ICT Minister Mustafa Jabbar also voiced the same opinion. He is also the current technocrat minister of the Ministry of Post, Telecommunication and Information Technology in Bangladesh.
Anisul Huq said, “We will finalise the draft after once again sitting with the representatives of mass media and then place it before parliament for passage.”
“We want to enact the law for the country not for any certain individual. We are not enacting any law obstructing journalism or targeting journalists. We cannot enact any law against the freedom of the press as per constitutional provision,” he remarked.
The Editors’ Council specifically raised an objection against certain provisions of the bill. Articles 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 43 are considered as vague by the Council, and could threaten the freedom of speech and free media.
At present, the bill on the Digital Security Act is under inspection of the parliamentary standing committee on post, telecommunications and ICT ministry.
Mustafa Jabbar, ICT Minister, said, ‘We the both sides have agreed that such act is not necessary for us, and that we will bring changes to the law wherever necessary.”
Golam Sarwar, President of Editors’ Council and Daily Samakal Editor notified the reporters that the discussion was productive. He said, “We have raised objections against some provisions of the Digital Security Act that would threaten free media and the freedom of speech.”
“We have fought earlier to protect democracy. If the government doesn’t amend the Digital Security Bill before its passage as per our demand, we will launch a movement to protect the freedom of speech and journalism,” he added.
Sarwar also informed, ”We have given a written statement to the authorities concerned raising our objections and we hope that the government will work in line with our demand for the greater interest of the freedom of speech.”
Salman F Rahman, ATCO President and Chairman of Independent Television and the Vice President of Beximco Group, told that they have brought into the knowledge of the concerned authorities about the bad sides of the law.
“We are worried about some sections of the law. We have informed the authorities concerned about our concerns. The (parliamentary standing) committee has assured us that they would consider our issues,” he said.
“The committee will place the Digital Security Bill before parliament after bringing necessary amendments,” added Salman F Rahman.
Mahfuz Anam, Editors’ Council Secretary and The Daily Star Editor, highlighted that they have opposed eight sections of the draft law. He said that the Editors’ Council would do every possible thing to ensure that rights of the journalists are not being hampered by the law. He also said, “The parliamentary committee has accepted our proposals.”