Digital Security Act 2018 nothing to muzzle journos: PM Sheikh Hasina
12:00 AM, October 04, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:54 AM, October 04, 2018

No false news, no worries

PM assures journos about Digital Security Act, says there should be provision for compensation to victims of fake news

♦ Conspiracies are there, but I don't care

♦ I hope all parties will participate in polls

♦ Global community putting pressure on Myanmar to take back Rohingyas

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said journalists who do not publish false news need not worry about the Digital Security Bill, 2018.

“If anybody doesn't have any criminal mindset or any plan to commit an offence, then there's nothing for him to be worried about,” she said at a press conference at the Gono Bhaban.

The PM said there was nothing worrying in the bill for a journalist who would not commit an offence or falsely blame anyone and mislead people with false information.

The press conference was arranged to brief journalists about the outcome of the PM's recent weeklong visit to the United States to attend the 73rd UN General Assembly. However, all contemporary issues, including the upcoming national election and the Rohingya crisis, came up.

Hasina said the government examined relevant laws of different countries before formulating the new law.

The provisions of the Digital Security Act are the same as they are in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Only the use of digital devices has been brought under the purview of the new law, she added.

The law lacks one thing when compared to that of England, she said, adding that like in England, a provision of punishment needs to be incorporated into the new law over publishing false news and compensating the victims.

“Only those journalists who have piled up false news against us and are waiting for releasing those one after another after the announcement of the election schedule should be worried about the law,” she said.

Hasina alleged that many newspapers had published false reports against her when she was in jail in 2007 and subsequently those news reports were proved false. She said those newspapers were not even ashamed of publishing the false news.

The PM said all the cases filed against her over purchasing MiG jet fighters, frigates and in connection with the Padma Bridge were proved baseless, but some newspapers very enthusiastically ran fabricated reports.

She said those newspapers didn't take the politicians' mental pain and harassment into consideration. “Journalists are worried, but who will look into our worries?”

Responding to a question regarding a recent Facebook post of national cricketer Liton Das on the occasion of Durga Puja and its subsequent removal following harsh criticism by a section of people, the PM said the government took the initiative to enact the law to deal with such incidents.

“I don't know who wrote those and why, but Bangladesh believes in non-communal attitude and we [Awami League] do politics of no-communalism.”

Hasina said those who were spreading communalism have no principle.

She urged all to be more cautious so that such incidents are prevented and requested journalists to play a more active role in this regard.

About the next national polls, the PM said there were conspiracies and there would be so in future, but she didn't care about it at all. She hoped all political parties would contest the next parliamentary polls.

“So many political parties are there [in the country]. They will decide whether they will contest the polls or not. I hope all the parties will participate in the election.”

The PM said the AL government has been in power for 10 years and has carried out many development activities.

“I want to remind the party leaders and activists that this doesn't mean the Awami League will return to power automatically through the next general election.... Bangladesh is not that type of place. Had Bangladesh been a more developed and civilised country, then this would have happened.”

She said her party would remain in office if the people vote it to power again. “We depend on the people, not on any outside force, to remain in power.”

NEW ALLIANCE

Asked about the “greater unity” of some political parties, Hasina said she was happy to see an alliance being formed. She expressed her readiness to extend any help that the alliance might need.

The PM, however, said there were two alliances in Bangladesh -- the Awami League and the anti-Awami League. “The anti-Awami Leaguers will have to go to somewhere and they need a platform.”

On the much-talked about Electronic Voting Machine (EVM), she said she saw no problem with the use of EVM.

 “In fact I am in favour of the EVM. We've already modernised the election system. Now it is Digital Bangladesh. If people can make transactions through mobile phones, then what is the problem in casting votes using machines? There should be a system so that you can cast your vote with your mobile phone set. Then you will not need to go to the polling station.”

ROHINGYA ISSUE

On the Rohingya issue, Hasina said the global community was putting pressure on Myanmar to take back Rohingyas.

She said Myanmar has already decided to take back some Rohingyas as per an agreement signed with Bangladesh.

“Discussions are underway on the issue. Bangladesh has constructed houses and other infrastructure at Bhasanchar to ensure a better environment for them [Rohingyas]. I will visit Bhasanchar soon.”

About her government's plan for the local community who has been affected by the Rohingya influx, the PM said the government was providing assistance to local residents in Cox's Bazar and the international agencies were also helping the local communities, she said.

PARTICIPATION IN UNGA

Hasina said her government had been able to brighten the country's image by playing a strong role in the 73rd UNGA in New York.

“I along with my entourage members attended various forums of the UN General Assembly from September 23 to September 28. We tried to project a positive Bangladesh before the global leadership.”

On September 27, the PM addressed the UNGA session at the UN Headquarters.

She said she joined a number of high-level events on the Rohingya crisis, cyber security, peacekeeping, women empowerment, girl education, sustainable development in fourth industrial revolution, climate change and global drug problem.

She expressed optimism about bringing back Rashed Chowdhury, one of the convicted killers of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from the USA.

“When I met US President Donald Trump in New York, I told him about the matter. He expressed interest and noted it down.”

Referring to her meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the PM said she sought extradition of Rashed Chowdhury and also handed over a letter to him to this end.

About another convict Nur Chowdhury, now in Canada, Hasina said there was a problem in the Canadian law. “However, a case is pending with the court... so, we hope we'll be able to bring him back too.”

PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim moderated the press conference.

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