The Sampadak Parishad (Editors' Council) yesterday expressed its surprise, disappointment and shock at the final report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Post, Telecommunication and ICT Ministry on the draft Digital Security Act.
At a meeting at The Daily Star Centre in the capital, the Council said the report, released on September 11, "totally ignored" the protests and concerns expressed by journalists and media organisations.
After the meeting, the Council issued the following statement:
We are forced to reject the said report as it suggested no fundamental changes to sections 8, 21, 25, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 43 of the Draft Act that pose serious threats to freedom of expression and media operation.
However, we welcome the inclusion of the Right to Information Act (RTI) under section 3, but we express our concern at the inclusion of the colonial era Official Secrets Act that is in clear contradiction with the RTI.
WE RECALL that we had a meeting with the Honourable Law Minister in the presence of the Honourable ICT Minister during which both ministers assured us of taking measures to mitigate our concerns.
WE ALSO RECALL with gratitude that the aforementioned JS Standing Committee met with the representatives of the Editors' Council, BFUJ and ATCO over two sittings during which we showed how the draft law stifles media freedom, a prerequisite for any democracy. The JS committee was supposed to meet with us once more before finalising its report but the meeting never took place.
The Sampadak Parishad is forced to reject the JS body report and the draft Digital Security Act because:
a) It is opposed to the guarantees of freedom of expression and freedom of the press by the Constitution in Articles 39(2) A and B;
b) It is opposed to the idea of freedom of thoughts and independence of media as enshrined in the spirit of our Liberation War;
c) It is opposed to the basic practice of democracy that Bangladesh has always fought and stood for;
d) It is opposed to the fundamental principles of journalism and freedom of the media that journalists in Bangladesh have struggled for.
In conclusion, we sincerely urge parliament, which is the House of the People and the repository of peoples' aspiration for all sorts of freedoms, not to pass this draft Digital Security Act which will gravely affect journalistic freedoms and seriously curtail democracy in Bangladesh.
The statement was issued by Reazuddin Ahmed, Founding Editor, News Today; Matiur Rahman Chowdhury, Editor, Manabzamin; Matiur Rahman, Editor, Prothom Alo; Nurul Kabir, Editor, New Age; Mahfuz Anam, Editor, The Daily Star; Shyamal Dutta, Editor, Bhorer Kagoj; Imdadul Haq Milan, Editor, Kaler Kantho; Naem Nizam, Editor, Bangladesh Pratidin; Alamgir Mohiuddin, Editor, Naya Diganta; AMM Bahauddin, Editor, Daily Inqilab; MA Malek, Editor, Dainik Azadi; Md Mozammel Haque, Editor, Karatoa; M Shamsur Rahman, Editor, The Independent; Khandaker Muniruzzaman, Acting Editor, Sangbad; Saiful Alam, Acting Editor, Jugantor; Dewan Hanif Mahmud, Editor, Bonik Barta; Zafar Sobhan, Editor, Dhaka Tribune; Mustafiz Shafi, Acting Editor, Samakal; and Shahiduzzaman Khan, Acting Editor, Financial Express.