The recently passed Digital Security Act would only protect the authorities while gagging free speech, speakers told a discussion yesterday.
“The way the government passed the law ignoring the concerns from journalists and civil society members is repressive,” said Prof Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University.
The government takes credit for “making the country digital”, but seems to be afraid of speech on digital platforms, he said, adding the Digital Security Act is a result of that fear.
The discussion was organised by Samajtantrik Chhatra Front at Dhaka University's TSC.
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said the wording in the law was so vague that police could arrest almost anyone if they wanted.
For criminal proceedings, an offence has to be defined clearly and specifically, he said.
Citing examples of misuse of the ICT Act, he said in almost 87 percent of the cases filed under its section 57, the accused were acquitted.
Prof Fahmidul Haq of Dhaka University said the government had increased surveillance on social media.
“Citizen Journalists are the worst victim of this,” he said. “Self-censorship prevails among people since the inception of section 57 and it is still there.”
The Digital Security Act was passed in parliament on September 19, ignoring widespread criticism.
On October 15, editors of some of the leading newspapers demonstrated to press home their demand for amending nine sections of the law.