Newspaper editors on Monday demanded amendments to nine sections of the newly enacted Digital Security Act.
The Editors’ Council, an association of newspaper editors in Bangladesh, made the demand at a human chain formed in front of Jatiya Press Club in the capital.The council demanded amendments to nine sections of the Act in the last session of the ongoing parliament to safeguard the freedom of media and the freedom of expression.
The Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam, Bangladesh Pratidin Editor Naem Nizam, Kaler Kantho Editor Imdadul Haq Milan, Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman, Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta, New Age Editor Nurul Kabir, Financial Express Acting Editor Shahiduzzaman Khan, Naya Diganta Editor Alamgir Mohiuddin, The Independent Editor M Shamsur Rahman, Manabzamin Editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, Daily Inqilab Editor AMM Bahauddin, Dainik Azadi Editor MA Malek, Karatoa Editor Mozammel Haque, Sangbad Acting Editor Khandaker Muniruzzaman, Jugantor Acting Editor Saiful Alam, Bonik Barta Editor Dewan Hanif Mahmud, Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan and Samakal Acting Editor Mustafiz Shafi took part in the human chain.
The Editors’ Council general secretary Mahfuz Anam read out a written statement containing their demands.
The Editors’ Council is open to any discussion for amendment to the law, the statement said.
‘But we don’t want to see any farce in the name of discussion,’ Mahfuz Anam said.
On Saturday, the council announced the programme of human chain at a press conference at the Press Club demanding amendments to sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, 43 and 53 of the Act.It demanded that during search operation by police at any media institution or any other organisation they should only be permitted to block specific content, but not to shut down any computer system.
While blocking content, they should do so only after discussion with the editor with reasonable proof of why such content should be blocked.
The council said in blocking or confiscating any computer system of a media house, prior order from the High Court must be obtained.
The council said that in case of offences relating to the performance of journalistic duty by media professionals, they must be issued summons to appear before a court (as in the law now), and under no circumstance, media professionals be detained or arrested without a warrant and due process of law.
For instances of offences made by media professionals, it should be routed through the Press Council to establish prima facie case, the council said. For this purpose, the Press Council may be strengthened appropriately.
The council also said the primacy of the Right to Information Act, passed by this government, should unequivocally be established above the Digital Security Act, and all freedom and rights granted under that law to the citizens and the media must be protected.
Earlier, the council called a human chain for September 29, but postponed it at the request of Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu.
President Abdul Hamid on October 8 assented to the Digital Security Bill transforming it into an Act, ignoring calls from national and international journalists, freethinkers and rights groups for returning it to the parliament for a revision.
Jatiya Sangsad on September 19 passed the Digital Security Bill, ignoring concerns expressed by different national and international quarters, including the Editors’ Council, as it poses a threat to the freedom of speech and the press.