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Assurance not to misuse Cyber Security Act not enough

Editorials 2023-08-10, 7:19pm

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Handcuff normally used to make an arrest.



Law Minister Anisul Huq has said that the proposed Cyber Security Act (CSA) which is being designed to replace the heavily criticised Digital Security Act (DSA) would not be used against journalists and members of the media.

The minister also rejected a criticism made in the media that CSA would be nothing but old wine in the new bottle and termed this as a criticism for criticism's sake. 

He expressed the hope that the independence of the news media would come back as there would be no repeat to misuse of DSA which is being repealed. Due to absence of misuse of the CSA, news media people would no longer face harassment, the minister said.

We thank the minister for his good words of assurance. At the same time we would like to recall that similar assurance to insulate journalists against the DSA was given before its passage in 2018. But the law was frequently used against news media people making human rights defenders from home and abroad to decry its abuse.

Comparing the CSA with DSA the minister said while most offences under the latter were non-bailable, the new law is making all offences bailable. While there was provision of jail for defamation under DSA, it's not so under CSA. Again the provision of jail has been reduced from 10 years to seven years. Fines for offences will range from Poisa 1 to Taka 25 lakhs and judges will determine this according to the degree of an offence.

It's dificult to say right now whether the assurance would be honoured or not subsequently. It's true that the country needs a law to protect against misue of the cyber space. But if the framers of the law genuinely want to prevent its misuse, they would be advised to do away with stringent provisions like making immediate arrests without determining the prima facie of a case and making the detention nonbailable. 

The law should in no way supersede the basic principles of human rights which are inalienable according to the Bangladesh Constitution which upholds the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. It may be specifically mentioned in the law that CSA cannot be employed to violate human rights of an individual.

A law is and should be impersonal. The framers should in no way think that it is only for application by them. Once enacted, it would be applied by anybody who is empowered to do so. Again a government may change in an election, but a law will require an amendment to be passed in Parliament to change.