Bangladeshi Journalists Defend Their Right to Investigate
Since January 29, dozens of journalists in Bangladesh have claimed, in their social media profiles, that they are spies.
The 2018 Digital Security Act, still in draft, is said to target digital crimes. The current draft was approved by the Council of Ministers of Bangladesh government on January 29 and is scheduled to be submitted to the Jatiya Sangsad (National Parliament) for approval. The act is expected to be approved without opposition, thanks to the majority held by the ruling Bangladesh Awami League party.
The Act is intended to replace the 2006 Information and Communication Technology Act (amended in 2013), which has drawn much criticism over the past years. The notorious Section 57 of the law prohibits digital messages that can “deteriorate” law and order, “prejudice the image of the state or person,” or “hurt religious beliefs.” For these non-bailable offenses, the punishment is a minimum seven years in prison and a hefty fine. These vague terms paved the way for dozens of journalists and hundreds of bloggers and online activists to be prosecuted for their writings and comments on social media. The Law Minister Anisul Huq promised in July 2017 that Section 57 would be scrapped.
The Section 32 of the proposed act stipulates:
If a person enters any government, semi-government or autonomous institutions illegally, and secretly records any information or document with electronic instruments, it will be considered as an act of espionage and he/she will face 14 years of imprisonment or a fine of BDT 2 million (US$ 24,000) or both.
Many journalists and online activists fear that their investigative work to expose irregularities by government employees and politicians could be regarded as espionage.
Source: Global Voices