Twenty-four professionals and academics from Bangladeshi diaspora have expressed grave concern over the passage of the Digital Security Bill, saying the new law is detrimental to the evolution of Bangladesh as a free, matured and modern democratic society.
"This act will further stifle any remaining scope for free speech that Bangladesh had left since we view this act as a mere repackaging of the notorious section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act, 2013 with additional draconian provisions," they said in a statement.
They said they are concerned that the act will not only affect the press but also academic work, exchanges in social media involving policy critiquing and historical scrutiny regarding the politics of Bangladesh, with far-reaching impact on researchers inside and outside Bangladesh.
They urged the government to immediately postpone the implementation of the act until "a full independent review is done by human rights groups and nonpartisan organisations".
Ali Riaz, professor of Illinois State University; Professor Emeritus Zillur Rahman Khan of University of Wisconsin; Habib Zafarullah, adjunct professor of University of New England, Australia; Md Khalequzzaman, professor of Lock Haven University, Pennsylvania; Rumi Ahmed, associate professor of University of Central Florida; Mohammed Mia, Investment Bank Vice President, Houston; and Shafquat Rabbee, columnist and adjunct faculty, University of Dallas, are among the signatories to the statement.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Forum Bangladesh, a platform of 20 rights and development organisations, yesterday urged the president not to put his signature on the law until the "controversial sections" were amended, says a press release.
It said the bill was passed without addressing the concerns of journalists and rights activists.
Despite assurance from several top ministers, the proposed law still has some sections that go against the freedom of expression and freedom of press.
Besides, Convener of Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal Khalequzzaman in a rally in the capital urged the president not to sign the law, according to a press release.
The act was passed in parliament on September 19 with harsh provision allowing police officials to search or arrest anyone without any warrant.
The bill got through by voice vote amid opposition from a number of Jatiya Party lawmakers, ignoring concern of journalists, owners of media houses and rights activists over some of its sections.