The Editors’ Council, in a statement on Wednesday, expressed concerns over the passage of the Cyber Security Bill, 2023, retaining most provisions of the Digital Security Act, 2018 ‘amid strong protests’ in parliament.
It said that no significant changes were made to the new law apart from the title.
‘Punishments have been reduced, while some provisions have been reformed in the new law that repeals the Digital Security Act. So, only the title has been changed without making any significant changes there in the Cyber Security Act,’ said the statement sent by the Editors’ Council president Mahfuz Anam and its general secretary Dewan Hanif Mahmud on behalf of the council.
It has proved that the concerns being expressed by the Editors’ Council along with other stakeholders in the press over the new law were well-grounded.
There are elements in the CSA that may curtail freedom of speech, the right to express opinions, and the freedom of the mass media, the statement said.
‘The Editors’ Council had been demanding amendments to the nine sections of the DSA (8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, 43, and 53) on the grounds that these were seriously affecting free journalism and freedom of expression,’ it said, adding that seven of them were amended with regards to sentencing and bail in the CSA without bringing clarity to the definition of offences.
It said that as Sections 21 and 28 of the DSA were nationally and internationally regarded as a tool to harass political opponents, suppress freedom of expression, and confusing as well, the United Nations Human Rights Office had called on the government to scrap these two sections.
The council expressed fear that the scope for misuse of the law would remain there with the new law retaining these two sections, although the punishment had been reduced.
Section 42 of the CSA empowers police officers to search or arrest any suspects without a warrant and seize computer network servers. The police have been given ‘judicial powers’ through the section, which was not acceptable, said the council.
If the CSA retaining most provisions of the DSA comes into effect, it will again be used as a tool to repress journalists, affecting free journalism, said the Editors’ Council, adding that it had nothing to say but to consider the CSA as a repressive law.
It, however, wants punishment for those committing cybercrimes.
On September 13, the parliament passed the Cyber Security Bill amid protests from opposition lawmakers.