Bangladeshi journalists protest digital law

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DHAKA

Oct 16, 2018-

Bangladeshi newspaper editors on Monday staged a protest demanding sweeping amendments to a newly enacted digital law that journalists and rights groups say will curb freedom of expression.

Critics say the measures—including prison sentences for spreading “negative propaganda”—are an attempt by an increasingly autocratic Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to stifle dissent in the South Asian nation.

Sixteen members of the Sampadak Parishad, a council of top editors, stood in front of the national press club in Dhaka, holding their hands to form a human-chain—a popular form of protest in Bangladesh.

They also held a banner that read “abolish the anti-freedom of expression articles in the digital security act”.

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

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

Mahfuz Anam, editor of the mass circulation Daily Star newspaper, said the protestors were not against the principal of a digital security law, but that in its current form it “opposes independent journalism and free press”.

He said nine sections of the newly passed law should be amended in the final session of parliament before the general election, due to be held in December or January.

Published: 16-10-2018 11:02

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