The awareness by the Minister of Justice of the misuse of the DSA is a positive development

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It’s time to put this dark law behind us

Justice Minister Anisul Huq. Archive photo: STAR

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Justice Minister Anisul Huq. Archive photo: STAR

We thank the Minister of Justice for finally acknowledging the well-known fact that the Digital Security Act (DSA) has indeed been misused and abused. He further said that a six-member team had been formed, comprising representatives of the relevant ministries, including those of law, information and communication technology and the interior, to respond to any questions. dissatisfaction with the law. This is undoubtedly an encouraging development, given that since its enactment on September 19, 2018, the law has been widely abused to muzzle dissent and press freedom.

According to ARTICLE 19, a total of 225 cases were filed between January and November this year under the DSA, and 68 journalists were charged in 32 of the cases. No less than 15 of the journalists prosecuted this year have been arrested and then jailed. ARTICLE 19 data also revealed that 83% of cases filed this year involved social media posts and individual online expressions. It was also mentioned in their report that the majority of users of the law (40 percent) are individuals affiliated with the ruling party, while a third of cases were filed by law enforcement. And 40 percent of the cases have been brought against people allegedly for criticizing the prime minister, ministers, members of parliament and ruling party affiliates.

Earlier this year, the High Court issued a ruling asking the government to explain why two controversial sections of the law, sections 25 and 31, should not be declared unconstitutional. The Editors’ Council has repeatedly pointed out in the past how controversial sections would undermine the cause of independent journalism and freedom of expression. However, despite widespread criticism from journalists, members of civil society, human rights organizations, as well as social media users for policing media operations, content censorship and monitoring of the media. freedom of the media and freedom of speech and expression — guaranteed by our constitution — this is the first time the government has signaled the possibility of an amendment.

We hope that the committee will take cognizance of the widely documented abuses of the DSA, engage with various stakeholders affected by the law, and take appropriate action to abolish the most criticized articles. The government must also come up with a compensation plan for victims of abuse of the law.

In addition, we welcome the Minister’s assurance that police stations were instructed not to arrest any journalist immediately after filing a complaint against him, given that 166 people, many of whom were journalists, were arrested under the law immediately after the cases were filed this year alone.

It is high time that we put this repressive and black law behind us. We hope that the Minister’s statements are not rhetoric, but rather the promise of a Bangladesh that values ​​and nurtures freedom of expression.

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