We are extremely disappointed and shocked that a parliamentary standing committee report on the said Bill has been placed before the House without a single substantial change. The role of the JS body in this regard is disappointing. We are constrained to suggest that the parliamentary body has not only abdicated its duty as the representative of the people to protect their interest, it has, by its inaction, also relinquished its oath-bound obligation to defend the constitution by upholding its fundamental values, one of which is the freedom of speech and the media. It has failed the people woefully.
The government may put up bills in a manner that would suit them. But it is for the MPs, the people's representatives, to ensure that in fulfilling the government's agenda, the rights of the people are not trampled and constitutional guarantees are not abridged. Forwarding the report on the bill as it is to the parliament only suggests that the JS body did not take the public concerns, especially those of the media, seriously since not a single point suggested by the editors, journalists and media bodies has been incorporated. What is equally shocking is that the body has deemed it fit to revalidate an archaic, colonial and anti-people act like the Official Secrets Act.
We need hardly remind that in the day and age of technology, the digital platform has become an integrated and inseparable part of all media, and any effort to stifle it will in effect choke the mainstream media and thus the freedom of expression. In trying to prevent digital crime, the government will end up throttling the digital space.
We urge the parliament not to rush through its passage, reconsider the whole process and listen to the concerns raised. There is still time till the bill is passed to prevent an anti-people law from being enacted.