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Bangladesh enacts digital law despite protests

Updated October 09, 2018

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Bangladesh’s president signed on Monday a digital security act into law on Monday despite protests by journalists and rights groups that it will severely curb media freedom. — File Photo
Bangladesh’s president signed on Monday a digital security act into law on Monday despite protests by journalists and rights groups that it will severely curb media freedom. — File Photo

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s president signed on Monday a digital security act into law on Monday despite protests by journalists and rights groups that it will severely curb media freedom.

“The digital security bill has been signed by the president today,” said President Abdul Hamid’s spokesman Joynal Abedin.

Top editors and journalists had a last-minute meeting with government ministers demanding that some sections of the legislation be changed. The law minister promised that he would discuss the issues but the president went ahead and signed the act into law without waiting.

Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International’s (TI) Bangladesh chapter slammed the move in an immediate reaction. “We are very disappointed,” said TI Bangladesh spokesman Sheikh Manjur-e-Alam.

Hundreds of journalists have staged demonstrations against the law in recent days and editors have said the law poses serious threats to freedom of expression and media in the country.

According to the Digital Security Act 2018, a journalist could be convicted of espionage for entering a government office and gathering information secretly using an electronic device, an offence that would carry a 14-year jail sentence.

It also provides for similar sentences for spreading “negative propaganda” about the country’s war of independence or its founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman using a digital device.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2018