Cyber security law to end harassment

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The week-long street protests and pro-government intellectuals, academics, rights activists, and defenders of media rights continued to ventilate their anger over the death of writer Mushtaq Ahmed and simultaneously demands to repeal the controversial Digital Security Act (DSA), the government in damage-control mode has hinted to repair the draconian law.

Law Minister Anisul Huq has said that the government is taking measures so that no one can be arrested or sued under the DSA before the investigation, he told BBC Bangla radio.

The DSA came to the forefront after the death of writer Ahmed, who was detained under the draconian law and died in Kashimpur High-Security Jail in Gazipur last week.

The Minister assured that they trying to reach a conclusion where no one can be arrested before investigation.

Admitting the misuse of law, the minister assured that they [government] are taking measures to bring an end to it.

For the first time in the country, there is a repressive cybersecurity law that only protects the government, politicians, and bureaucrats, but not the citizens.

If the controversial DSA could provide security to the citizens, the government must come forward and state who are those citizens benefitted from the draconian law.

The government cannot deny that the law arbitrarily targets critics, netizens, and journalists.

Not surprised that the law has never slammed charges against ‘waz-mongers (Islamic evangelists)’ and seems to have given immunity under the repressive law.

When the Mullah ‘wazi’ makes hate speech against the Ekushey book fair, Ekushey February, elective democracy, gender quality, Independence Day, liberation war sculptures, liberation war, national anthem, national constitution, national flag, Pahela Baishak, pluralism, school textbooks, secularism, Victory Day, women leadership, women’s empowerment, anger the people who suffered and contributed to the liberation.

They dared to challenge the elected government, demand to garbage the state constitution and instead override with Holy Quran and Sunnah as guiding principle of the nation-state, and to declare the nation an Islamic Republic, which was born from a bloody war on the principles of democracy, secularism and pluralism.

Such hate-speech challenges the sacrifice made by the people of Bangladesh – the three million martyrs, more than 400,000 women victims of rape, and 10 million war refugees.

The district administration nor the local police chief monitor the Waz-Mehfils, which gives them an upper hand to deliver hate-speech among tens and thousands of disciples. The audience enlarges when the sermons are uploaded to Youtube and Facebook, which are owned by infidels.

Despite hate-speech by the Mullahs are widely available on social media, but they are never punished. They are not slammed under cybersecurity laws.

Should the government be afraid of the Mullahs? The wazi’s overtly opposed secularism, pluralism, democracy, and are threats to national unity.

The mango-people understand that like the writer Ahmed, who dared to criticise the government’s pandemic management is a soft target for legal harassment.

More than 2,000 people have been booked under the undemocratic law since 2018, including folk singers, children, doctors, netizens, and not the least but the last are the journalists.

The law gives a wide range of authority to a junior police officer to barge into a newspaper or a media office. They can confiscate digital devices, like computers/laptops, WiFi routers, external hard disks, and mobile phones without any warrant.

The accused persons are blamed for tarnishing the image of the nation or have attempted to ‘destabilise’ the state.

Such lambasting accusations against the critics, writers, netizens, and journalists are sweeping statements. At the end of the day, the police investigators do not have any evidence, nor could they list any eyewitness to the alleged cybercrime.

On the other hand, the cybercrime tribunal is ill-equipped and does not have digital equipment, nor any trained personnel to determine what the accused has committed through social media.

The police investigators also do not have the skill and experience to understand what digital offence has been committed.

As the law allows, the detained accused should be kept in prison until a competent court grants bail, or held in custody to stand trial at the cybercrime tribunal.

Meanwhile, civil society and rights groups have reiterated to scrap the controversial cybersecurity law, which shrinks the space for freedom of expression, free speech, press freedom, and right to critique.

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <saleemsamad@hotmail.com>; Twitter @saleemsamad

  • Digital Security Act (DSA)
  • ICT Act

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