Journalist Community Raises Concerns Over Proposed Cyber Security Act’s Impact on Media Freedom

The Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU) has voiced concerns over the potential ramifications of the proposed Cyber Security Act, 2023, which is set to replace the existing Digital Security Act. According to the DRU, there are apprehensions that this new act could impede free media and expression.

One key provision within the proposed act that has raised alarms is the inclusion of a maximum fine of Tk25 lakh as a punishment for disseminating defamatory information through the media. This provision has sparked worries among the journalist community about its implications for independent and free journalism.

While the proceedings of ongoing cases under the Digital Security Act are slated to continue, the journalist community believes that the Cyber Security Act could pose a significant threat to journalism, much like its predecessor, the Digital Security Act. This collective sentiment was expressed through a joint statement issued by DRU President Mursalin Nomani and General Secretary Mainul Hasan Sohail on behalf of the DRU Executive Committee.

The journalist community has long been advocating for the repeal of the Digital Security Act since its initial enactment. Criticism have also emerged from international circles, adding to the call for its removal. The hope was that the government would address concerns and promote unfettered journalism by scrapping the Digital Security Act. However, the journalist society has expressed deep disappointment with the Cabinet’s recent decision to replace the Digital Security Act with the Cyber Security Act, without nullifying the former.

The DRU leaders conveyed that any legislation that hampers media and journalist freedom will not be accepted by the journalist society. The lack of consultation with the journalist community about the decision to introduce the Cyber Security Act in place of the Digital Security Act has left the community in a state of uncertainty.

Furthermore, the journalist community is in the dark about the specifics of the proposed cyber security law in relation to journalists. As a prominent platform for professional journalists, the DRU believes that if there are concerns about published news, it’s more suitable to address them through the press council.

The DRU emphasized that the intention behind the proposed Cyber Security Act should not involve prosecuting journalists for the news they publish. Consequently, they are urging for the removal of penalty provisions outlined in the proposed law and the withdrawal of all cases that have been filed under the Digital Security Act.

The statement also highlighted the significance of seeking input from journalists’ organizations before enacting any laws. If the views of journalist groups are disregarded during the legislative process, the journalist society views this as indicative of a restrictive law.

In conclusion, the DRU’s apprehensions over the new Cyber Security Act underscore the delicate balance between preserving national security and upholding journalistic freedom. The concerns raised reflect the importance of engaging with and considering the opinions of journalists when crafting legislation that can impact the media landscape. It remains to be seen how these concerns will influence the final form of the Cyber Security Act and its potential implications for the realm of journalism in Bangladesh.

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