UN special rapporteur urges govt to suspend DSA

UN special rapporteur urges govt to suspend DSA

A UN Special Rapporteur today urged the government to suspend the Digital Security Act and expressed alarm at the effect of it on the ability of civil society to operate freely.

Under DSA, journalists, human rights defenders, opposition politicians and academics have been detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion.

"These developments will not only scare off the very investors the country is trying to attract, but they are also an obstacle to the realisation of economic and social rights," UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier De Schutter, said at a press briefing at a city hotel at the end of a 12-day visit to the country.

He suggested the Digital Security Act be suspended.

During his visit, the expert travelled throughout the country and met with NGO and government officials and people living in poverty.

"You cannot deliver health care, education, or social protection without also improving accountability and transparency," De Schutter said.

He noted that while Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in reducing overall income poverty, multidimensional poverty remains high and income inequality has increased, particularly in urban areas.

"Overall economic progress has been uneven, with groups such as the Adivasi, Dalit, Bede, Hijra and religious and linguistic minorities such as the Bihari left out," the special rapporteur said.

"The government has also carried out evictions in informal settlements under the guise of development, without following due process or providing adequate compensation and rehabilitation – in violation of the right to adequate housing," he said.

The government of Bangladesh must move away from its reliance on cheap labour if it is to ensure a rights-based development following its expected graduation from Least Developed Country (LDC) status, the UN poverty expert said.

"A country's comparative advantage cannot lie in keeping its people poor," he said.

"Bangladesh's development has largely been driven by one export sector-the ready-made garment industry-which is highly dependent on keeping wages low," he said.

De Schutter urged the government to use its upcoming graduation from LDC status in 2026 as an opportunity to rethink its reliance on the ready-made garment industry, which currently accounts for 82 percent of the country's export revenue and employs four million workers.