South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR) notes with deep concern the passing of the Digital Security Act by the Government of Bangladesh, despite many rights activists, civil society and media at national, regional and international level strongly criticising this act as a move to violate the fundamental right to freedom of expression guaranteed by the country’s constitution.
This ‘super draconian’ law replaces the Information Communication and Technology Act, of which section 57 has been applied to detain hundreds of people, including activists and journalists, and most recently and notoriously to detain Dr. Shahidul Alam, the well known journalist and activist for over two months. SAHR believes that provisions of this new Digital Security Act can be used to deprive individuals of their liberty, or subject them to disproportionately high punishments just for online speech which is suspected to result in defamation, hurting religious sentiments, deteriorating the law and order situation and inciting violence. It will also impose draconian punishments on anyone responsible for the vague offense of ‘propaganda’ against the independence war.
SAHR strongly believes that the Government of Bangladesh continues to ignore its obligations to protect human rights and the concerns of its citizens when drafting legislation, and especially this Act. SAHR resolutely urges the government to immediately review this act, considering its effects on the violation of fundamental rights of its people and calls to take effective steps to ensure the right to freedom of expression of the citizens which is guaranteed by the constitution and international human rights law. In particular it should review all existing cases under section 57 of the repealed ICT Act and withdraw those which are unjustified and arbitrary.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights: