Editors want section 57 fully repealed
The Editors' Council yesterday demanded the government fully repeal section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act and refrain from taking any initiative to re-introduce similar provisions in any new law.
It also demanded withdrawal of all cases filed under this section against editors and journalists and release of the detained journalists.
Protesting and condemning all attacks on journalists, the editors called upon the authorities to investigate the incidents neutrally and bring the people responsible to book.
They made the demand in a statement adopted at a meeting held yesterday at The Daily Star office with Editors' Council President and Samakal Editor Golam Sarwar in the chair.
Expressing deep concern over the draft Digital Security Act, the council said section 19 of the proposed law contains all the anti-free press elements of section 57.
Although the law minister had said a few days ago that section 57 would be revoked, section 19 of the proposed law has the same repressive provisions like section 57 in an even harsher form, the statement said.
They said such sections go against the constitution and serve as a threat to the freedom of speech and journalism guaranteed by the constitution.
"We are also concerned that section 15 (5) of the draft would be a major impediment to freedom of thought and freedom of expression as someone's narrative of the history of the Liberation War and relevant issues will be regarded as a 'digital criminal offence' if that goes against the government's narrative,” it said.
"Therefore, we call upon the government to totally remove such restrictive provisions in order to create a scope for lively discussion on the country's rich history of struggle and independence."
The Council voiced concern over the draft of the National Online Mass Media Policy, saying the provisions of the ICT act, including section 57, have been incorporated in this draft policy as it has been done in the Digital Security Act.
"We raise our concern over the draft, because the draft also has the provision to consider the so-called defamation of any individual or organisation as a criminal offence."
The editors urged the government to repeal all provisions that come as impediment to the freedom of speech.
"We demand scrapping of the provision that considers the so-called defamation of any individual or organisation as a criminal offence. We urge that it be made mandatory to go to the Press Council first for remedy of such issues," said the statement.
The editors said any kind of direct or indirect interference through the above mentioned laws on the established newspaper and electronic media and their digital media operations through websites and social media pages would not be acceptable.
However, they called on the unregulated online and social media platforms to be respectful to the existing media ethics and norms.
The Editors' Council demanded withdrawal of all false cases filed across the country by the government officials and members of the ruling party against editors and journalists.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam; Ittefaq Editor (acting) Tasmima Hossain; News Today Editor Reazuddin Ahmed; The Financial Express Editor AHM Moazzem Hossain; Manabzamin Chief Editor Matiur Rahman Chowdhury; Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta; Kaler Kantha Editor Imdadul Haq Milon; Bangladesh Pratidin Editor Nayeem Nizam; Daily Sangbad Editor (acting) Khandaker Muniruzzaman; Jugantor Editor (acting) Saiful Alam; Banik Barta Editor Dewan Hanif Mahmud; and Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman attended the meeting.
[Translated from Bangla]