7 February 2018, Wed, 5:02

Editors' Council terms section 32 as an attack on democracy

Editors' Council has asked the government to drop the controversial section 32 of the proposed digital security act.

In a statement signed by council’s secretary general, Mahfuz Anam, on Tuesday, the council expressed conviction that if enacted, the law would create an atmosphere of stopping pursuit of journalism independently.

"The section 32 of the digital security act that defines [journalism as] digital spying and keeps provision for punishment is an attack on the democratic spirit and the freedom of expression," the council said.

The council members held a meeting chaired by its president Golam Sarwar at The Daily Star centre and discussed in detail the draft of the Digital Security Bill 2018, endorsed by the cabinet.

In its statement issued afterwards, the council protested at and expressed concern at the drafting of yet another draconian law, instead of scrapping the controversial section 57 of the ICT Act.

The section 32 of the proposed digital security law has equated journalism with spying and kept provision for 14 years of imprisonment for such “offence”.

While reviewing the bill, the editors also noted that the section 32 described using information of government, semi-government, autonomous or statutory body through computers, digital machines, computer or digital networks or any electronic medium as espionage.

Such an offence will carry a maximum jail term of 14 years or a fine of Tk 25 lakh or both, according to the draft bill.

The council recalled that the law minister assured journalists of removing all controversial provisions of ICT and other acts that hinder the journalistic practice.

"The proposed law is harsher. It will only shrink the space for independent journalism and expressing opinions," the council added.

The council leaders called on the government to hold talks with stakeholders before passing the law.

The meeting was also attended by Mahfuz Anam of the Daily Star, Motiur Rahman of Prothom Alo, Matiur Rahman Chowdhury of Manabzamin, Reazuddin Ahmed of News Today, AHM Moazzem Hossain of the Financial Express, Khandoker Muniruzzaman of Sangbad, Nurul Kabir of New Age, Shyamal Dutta of Bhorer Kagoj, Noim Nizam of Bangladesh Protidin, Alamgir Mohiuddin of Naya Diganta, Saiful Alam of Jugantor, M Shamsur Rahman of Independent, MA Malek of Azadi, AMM Bahauddin of Daily Inqilab, Md Mozammel Haque of Dainik Karatoa, Zafar Sobhan of Dhaka Tribune.